Stephen King’s Top 5 Writing Tips

Stephen-KingStephen King recently turned 68. He has been writing nail-biting cliff-hangers and kept readers on the edge of their seats for years. He is an absolute master when it comes to dramatic suspense and absolutely brilliant at shaping the outline of a plot. He knows exactly where to put the highs and lows, the reveals and the secrets not to mention the neatly interwoven subplots. Basically, he can reduce his reader to a breathless wreck. Long before Netflix had viewers craving their next hit of a certain boxset drama, Stephen King was there doing the same thing – leaving his readers desperate to read “just one more chapter”.

Stephen King 5 Facts

  • His books have sold more than 350 million copies.
  • Not only is Stephen King a bestselling author, his films have been adapted to movies, TV series and comic books.
  • He has won many top industry awards, including World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards
  • Stephen King has written 54 novels and 6 non-fiction books
  • He has written a book to help other writers develop their craft called On Writing

Stephen King’s Writing Tips

Stephen King has written a whole book on how to be a better writer, but here I’ve chosen 5 of my favourite quotes from him that can help all writers in all genres at all stages of their career. Even if you are writing literary fiction, and you don’t think you can learn anything from a commercial thriller writer, trust me, you can.

1, You need a place to write

How many of you struggle to find enough time in a quiet enough place to write? Routine is your friend here. Your writing place doesn’t even have to be in your own home, it could be a local library of cafe. Wherever it is, you need to make sure that your time there is protected. This means that you will not just quickly check your emails, catch up with the latest political scandal or start chatting to friends on Facebook. When you are in this place you are there with one purpose: to write. That purpose is sacred and you need to do what you can to protect it. This will also help you to focus your mind, be more productive and get more written.

 2, Know your characters inside out, but be selective

When you are coming up with the idea for a character, you need to know everything about them – from the small things like how they take their coffee to the big things like what they are carrying with them from childhood. We often work with writers who create “bibles” for each character to make sure they are consistent in what they write. But, and here’s the big but – just because you know every last thing about them you don’t need to cram it into your writing. Be selective, think about what is important to the story and what can be left lurking in the background.


3, Keep reading; keep learning

This one was a favourite with my English teachers at school. As always, they were right – you cannot hope to be a good writer until you have become a good reader. Of course you need to check out your competition and read the biggest authors in your genre or Amazon category, but you should also read more widely. Read the books that are winning literary prizes to see why they won, have a look at the Kindle top 100 chart and select something you would not normally read. There is always lots to learn from other writers.

4, Don’t waffle

You love words; that’s why you are a writer. We understand this, we love words too. However, successful writers are those who can be selective and pare down their words so that they can create maximum impact with as few words as possible. It can be tempting to over-write certain scenes, to fill them with too much description, because you want the reader to see it as clearly in their minds as you do. Generally, if you are honest with yourself, you will know when you are doing this. If you suspect you are beginning to waffle, ask a trusted friend (or fellow writer) to read your work and give you some brutally honest feedback.

5, Feedback will make you a better writer

Any member of a writing group will tell you that getting open and honest advice from fellow writers can be a real shortcut to improving your craft. Even if you are not a member of a writing group, you can and should be actively seeking feedback from friends and family. Now, for this feedback to be valuable you need to make sure you don’t get any of the “Very nice dear” type comments. We have created a reader feedback questionnaire here, which helps readers focus their mind on specific questions and asks them to rank certain elements. This can be very helpful e.g. if all your questionnaires come back showing that the ending is ranked weaker than the beginning and the middle then you know where you need to go to work. The people around you are a great untapped resource, use them to help you become a better writer. When you have taken the feedback on board and had a go at strengthening the weaker parts of your story, you are ready to start working with a professional editor who will be able to use their experience and sharp eye to make your work the best it can be. Find out more about our editorial services here.

Have Stephen King’s words struck a chord with you? Perhaps your favourite Stephen King quotes are different from ours? Please share the Stephen King quotes that have helped you the most in the comments box below.

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