21 Quotes “On Writing” by Stephen King

The Haunted Pen - 21 Quotes “On Writing” by Stephen KingOver the years, Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books, and whether you like his work or not, you cannot deny that is pretty damned impressive.

While King is known for his fictional works, he has also written a book about the craft of writing – “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

As writers, we know there are myriad books on writing available, mostly by writers you have never heard of and possibly never will again, but King’s addition to the ranks is a gem of an exception.

A combination of memoir and masterclass, it is an instructive, insightful, revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft. Even better, it is a hell of a good read (my well-thumbed copy must have been read five times since I bought it in 2013). I consider it to be one of the best books about the craft of writing that I have ever read, and I have read quite a few of them, believe me.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”:

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s – GASP!! – too late.”

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

So okay – there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”

Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.”

Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.”

The Haunted Pen - 21 Quotes "On Writing" by Stephen King

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