There is no question that Stephen King is one of the most popular and successful authors of all time. His novels, It, The Stand, and Misery have been translated into dozens of languages and sold over 500 million copies worldwide. Furthermore, King has been named one of the top ten living geniuses by Inc. Magazine and one of the top hundred most influential people in the world by The New York Times. Needless to say, King is successful due to his exceptionally good writing and storytelling abilities.
However, despite his phenomenal success, author Stephen King has acknowledged that he is not perfect and has had to overcome his share of writer’s block. In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” King candidly offers advice on how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that hinder many a would-be author from seeing their work prosper in print.
The Importance Of Structure
King begins by discussing the most basic and fundamental elements of writing: structure and pacing. King suggests that readers should not be presented with lengthy expository passages or overly descriptive scenes; this makes his novels difficult to put down because the stories are so action-packed that the pages just keep on turning. As he puts it, “I want the reader to feel that they’re going somewhere; I don’t want them to feel like the author is just talking at them.” It is crucial, King argues, that the narrative drive and action be maintained at all times, even if certain descriptions or explorations of character are meant to be a bit more poetic or the pace a bit slower. The overarching goal is to keep the audience interested and entertained until the very end.
The Function Of Description
In his description of the novel’s structure, King also stresses the importance of using effective descriptive passages. These are vital in bringing the story to life and making the world of the narrative more vivid and appealing. The problem is that many novelists, particularly in the early stages of their writing careers, lack the confidence to experiment with language and tend to overuse similes and metaphor. This can make the work sound less imaginative and original than it really is. Descriptive passages should be used judiciously and, when necessary, for stylistic purposes only. When describing a subject in great detail, it can be helpful to step back and try to see the whole scene from a higher perspective.
The Value Of Clarity
One important lesson that King stresses over and over again in his book is the need for clarity. This is vital for any writer, but it is especially pertinent for non-fiction writers who want to move beyond generalizations and superficial observations. He urges his readers to strive for precision in their work and to avoid the use of nebulous language. The novel’s prose should be both vivid and easy to understand. This is not to say that the writing must be flowery or overly complicated; quite the opposite, in fact. Concision and simplicity are the hallmark of good writing. Too often, particularly in the early stages of a career, novelists will wax poetic and expository, filling page after page with needless verbiage. This not only makes the work extremely verbose but also tends to reduce its readability. When writing non-fiction, particularly in the early stages, it is important to keep the language as simple as possible; the fewer words, the better. Besides, an easy-to-understand language enhances the work’s appeal to a larger audience.
The Danger Of Unreliable Memory
Another issue that King discusses at length is the danger of unreliable memory. This is a problem that every writer faces to one degree or another, and it can greatly impact a work if not dealt with effectively. In some cases, the unreliable nature of memory can lead to the author distorting or even completely fabricating details about the events that gave rise to the story. In extreme cases, it can even lead to the author simply making things up as he goes along. For this reason, King stresses the importance of maintaining a constant vigilance of one’s memory and being extremely wary of what one writes down during the course of one’s research. If the information turns out to be inaccurate or insufficient for the task, the entire work can be rendered useless. This is a great cautionary tale for any writer, but it is particularly pertinent for non-fiction writers who want to avoid the many pitfalls that can make or break a work of history. In light of this, it is important to remember to question everything, including one’s own memory. Only then can one be sure that one’s opinion or observations are as accurate as they can be and that one’s work will withstand the test of time.
Ultimately, Stephen King’s advice on writing is anything but easy. As he states in his book, “Writing is hard; it’s not something you can learn in school. You have to be passionate about it to make it worth your while.” Nevertheless, the rewards can be truly extraordinary if you put in the necessary effort. For this reason, King’s advice on writing should not be overlooked by any would-be author.