Sometimes you have to crawl through a pipe of shit to get out as a free man at the end.
Stephen King, who wrote the underlying novel, also had to go through this pipe.
Every writer has to go through this pipe full of shit before he is successful.
On his way, through this pipe, Stephen King has learned a lot about Writing, and I have collected his 30 best writing tips for you.
These writing tips come from his book “Life and Writing” – a must for any aspiring writer. And also a must-read for bloggers.
Curtain up for Stephen King:
Writing tip #1) Good writing is not an explosion of emotions
Many of King’s fellow students were trapped in a romantic cloud and believed that excellent Writing was spontaneous. A good book is an emotional outburst that must be captured immediately.
Serious art came… from somewhere out there.
King sees it differently. Good Writing is hard work, where you fight for clarity, the right words, and the right pictures.
It’s mental work. Not the work of any mystical gods.
Writing tip #2) Good writing is both: bright and crazy.
This clarity must not exclude one thing: literary madness.
Stephen King rightly asks: “Why can’t a writer be able to play crazy and still stay normal?
Both are possible: you can write clearly with your head and be wild with your heart.
Writing tip #3) Don’t give up just because it’s difficult
Stephen King learned the following lesson from his novel “Carrie”:
You should never give up just because the story proves to be emotionally or imaginatively complicated.
When you come up against a wall, it’s not a good idea to just turn around and do something else.
Instead, you should persevere and drill through the wall.
“Even if you feel like you’re sitting and shoveling shit.”
Writing tip #4) Never stop writing!
Stephen King had alcohol problems for a long time. In his book, he doesn’t cover them up. He also doesn’t justify the fact that he needs alcohol to be creative. That’s nonsense.
When you drink, you drink, whether you’re a writer, a taxi driver, or a bum. “We all look pretty much the same when we puke in the gutter.”
But there’s one thing he couldn’t even be dissuaded from Writing.
He never stopped writing and trusted that things would get better. And it got better.
Trust in the process.
Writing tip #5) Don’t write a manual
Descriptions are important. Without them, there is no picture in the mind of the reader.
But unfortunately, many authors lose themselves in endless descriptions. Stephen King then calls such texts “operating instructions.”
A girl who was 156 cm tall wore a checkered skirt, a white blouse, and a jacket.
Vague comparisons. Comparisons are the abbreviation to a quick picture in the reader’s head.
A girl came into the room who looked like a schoolgirl from a manga comic.
Bamm! And immediately, the reader has a clear picture in front of his eyes – without you having to list details forever.
Writing tip #6) Be everything, but not frivolous
You’re allowed to sit nervously at your desk. Or excited, hopeful, or even desperate.
Write with clenched fists, a warped face or sweat on your forehead.
It doesn’t matter how you approach writing. There is only one thing you must not do: be frivolous.
Take Writing seriously. No matter whether you want to conquer a lady’s heart with a poem or change the world with your 95 theses.
“They must never sit frivolously on a white sheet of paper,” writes Stephen King.
Especially the headline is still underestimated in this country. Often it is simply thrown at the end. A bad mistake that can cost you thousands of readers.
Take Writing seriously or leave it.
Writing tip #7) Your writing style is like a toolbox
King finds the perfect comparison for the skills of Writing: the toolbox.
You always have a toolbox with you, and you can always fall back on the tools. The more tools you can carry, the better.
In other words, you can expand your skills as an author, just as you can develop a toolbox.
But you can’t do it without hard work (and time and money).
Writing tip #8) Level 1: The vocabulary
The first level of the toolbox is vocabulary. It is the layer you use most often.
And the great thing is: Here, what you already have in tools is enough.
You don’t need a high-pitched vocabulary. You need a dictionary that you understand. Be clear and direct.
A few examples of great authors:
“The river was there. It was a hot day.”
- Ernest Hemingway
“Some landowners were friendly because they didn’t like what they were doing, and some were evil because they didn’t like being cruel, and some were cool because they had long ago found out that you can’t be a landowner without being cool.”
- John Steinbeck
In English, Steinbeck’s text consists of 50 words. 39 of them are only one syllable long.
You don’t have to be ashamed of your short words. On the contrary, the short words are the best.
When you artificially dress up your vocabulary, it’s like making up your dog. It seems funny and ridiculous.
Writing tip #9) Level 2: Grammar
Stephen King won’t be here long. Either you’ve understood the basics, so you don’t need any tips here.
Or you haven’t understood the basics in school yet, then you’re a hopeless case anyway.
Either way: Tips for grammar, therefore, make little sense for an (adult) author.
But I can tell you one thing: punctuation marks are essential.
The placement of the comma is decisive for life and death.
” Come eat grandpa.”
“Let’s eat, Grandpa.”
Writing tip #10) Follow the rules – until you know better
As for grammar, King gives an important tip: “As long as you’re not sure you’re doing it well, you’re probably best advised to follow the rules.”
In other words, only if you are sure what you are doing should you break the rules.
Beginners break the rules out of ignorance.
Masters break the rules deliberately.
The reader notices the difference.
Writing tip #11) Level 3: The style elements
You learn vocabulary and grammar at school. You learn style only through creative Writing – not through dictation.
There are many stylistic elements, but Stephen King emphasizes one thing above all else: the paragraph.
The paragraph is underestimated by many authors. It is the instrument that determines the speed of a text. The more articles, the faster the book.
The appearance of a paragraph is almost as important as its content. So think carefully about when and why you make a paragraph.
Writing tip #12) The reader is the most important person
Even if you don’t like to hear it, the reader is more important than you. Your most important task is not to lose him.
He must not drown in your texts, get lost or drown. Take the reader by the hand. Write clearly.
“Without the faithful reader, you’re just a croaking voice in nothingness.”Tweet
Writing tip #13,) Adverbs are not your friends
Stephen King has a definite opinion about adverbs: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Why are adverbs so bad?
Because they are superfluous. Or rather, in a good text, they are unnecessary.
Example with Adverb:
“He closed the door.”
Here you can see that adverbs are mostly used by “lazy” authors who don’t want to bother searching for the right word.
“He slammed the door.”
Shorter, crunchier, more lively.
So fingers away from adverbs.
Writing Tip #14) Fear is the Cause of Bad Texts
“Fear is the reason for many bad lyrics,” King writes in his book.
I fully agree with him. William Zinsser also writes in his guidebook* that Writing is always a matter of courage.
You can’t become a good writer without courage.Tweet
What’s the matter with you?
Because then, under the influence of fear, you always write, “I should add that.” “Oh, that sounds too hard. You have to weaken that.” “Maybe I’ll step on someone’s toes with it, I’d rather leave it out…”
Great authors are the conscience of society. They say what everyone thinks, but nobody dares to say.
Stephen King says so:
“Good writing has a lot to do with taking off fear and affectation.”
Writing tip #15,) Writing is refined thinking
Unfortunately, our fingers are often faster than our minds.
We all know the saying: First think, then talk.
The following applies to authors: Think first, then write.
Remove the obvious and the banal from your texts. Surprise the reader.
Writing tip #16) The ellipse
I use this style element very often and very gladly. It tightens the text like Botox tightens the face.
What is an ellipse? An incomplete sentence.
Usually, a classical sentence consists of a subject and a predicate.
If you omit the predicate or subject, the text becomes more jagged, faster, and more dynamic. The ellipse is an excellent way to increase tension in critical moments.
Example without ellipses:
“He ran to the door and listened. He heard nothing. Only the sound of the wind and the rustling of the leaves could be heard.”
Example with ellipses:
“He ran to the door and listened. Nothing. Only the sound of the wind and the rustling of the leaves.”
Of course, grammatically this is not entirely correct. But Writing is not about proper grammar. It’s about seduction.
Writing tip #17) Feel the rhythm
A lyric has a rhythm just like a song.
A song with a monotonous rhythm quickly becomes boring and dull. The same applies to a lyric.
If you only use ellipses, your lyrics sound like a march. Zack, Zack, Zack. This will be exhausting in the long run.
If you only write sentences as long as a few centimeters, it will also be annoying. The trick is in the mix. Create variety. Vary.
The means is punctuation. Play with dots, commas, semicolons, and colons. There are also question marks and exclamation marks.
And not to forget: the paragraph.
Use these means to create a rhythm that captivates the reader.
Make music with words.Tweet
Writing tip #18) One sentence at a time
Too many authors and bloggers are deterred by the great effort. They imagine a 500-page novel and are paralyzed like a fossil by this image alone.
The typical writer’s block.
The solution? Break the novel down into individual chapters. Split the sections into paragraphs and the paragraphs into sentences.
Now you don’t have to write a novel anymore – just one sentence. That’s less scary.
Just concentrate on the here and now. On the sentence in front of you. And write one sentence after the other.
Writing tip #19) The muse lives in the cellar
Many authors wait for the “muse” for inspiration.
Stephen King doesn’t say it doesn’t exist. They exist.
But she doesn’t just come fluttering into your room. You have to go to her. You have to go to the basement and fight your way through to her. You have to do the dirty work, and only then you meet the muse.
Say: The muse comes to those who work hard and not to those who sit on the couch looking at Netflix.
Writing tip #20) Lots of reading and lots
This tip is obvious. Nevertheless, very few authors and bloggers adhere to this rule.
Many write and write – and don’t realize that they only use clichés. Why? Because they don’t read good texts, they think their books are good.
There is simply no comparison. There is no experience.
Stephen King even adds: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”
A little tip: audiobooks also help. Stephen King listens to about 6 to 12 audiobooks a year.
Writing tip #21) Mixing styles of other authors
Copying is an excellent form of learning. Especially at the beginning, “copying” is the most effective way to improve your writing style.
If you copy your role models, this is not a bad thing at first. But in the second step, you should develop your own style by mixing these styles.
This creates something completely new.
Writing tip #22) Forget “polite” society
“If you want to make it as a writer, rudeness should be your second last concern. The previous matter should be the so-called better society and its expectations.
Be authentic and try not to adapt to courtly behavior. “Political correctness” and so on are often only loops of princes.
You should not insult anyone. But you shouldn’t write with a silver spoon in your ass either.
Writing tip #23) Leave the TV out
A lot of Writing and a lot of reading – that costs a lot of time.
And the television simply devours too much of it.
Writing tip #24) Playing with your texts
What makes a bad musician?
He only plays according to notes.
He doesn’t improvise, he doesn’t experiment, he never goes crazy. But a robot can also play by notes.
If as an author, you don’t want to be replaced by a robot, then play with your lyrics. Try out, experiment, be wild, be free.
Everything else a machine can do.
Writing tip #25) Write your X words per day.
I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. Every author invokes the famous “writing routine” again and again. But who implements it consistently?
Who is so disciplined that he writes 2 hours every morning before work? Or every evening half an hour before sleeping?
Stephen King has set himself a target: He doesn’t stop writing until he has written 2000 words – no matter how long it takes. And this routine he pulls through hard as nails.
To get started, I recommend that you aim for 500 words a day. That takes just half an hour to an hour.
Everybody can do that – if he is serious about blogging (or writing books).
Writing tip #26) Have a door that can be closed.
Today you can print from anywhere. The question, however, is: Should we do the same?
Your place of Writing should fulfill one condition: It should have a door that can be closed.
This closed-door is above all a symbol of “work” and that you don’t want to be disturbed.
Focus determines the success of a text.
Writing tip #27) Finish it off
With his novel “The Last Battle,” Stephen King didn’t get any further and was about to give up the story. But he had already written 500 pages.
What do many authors do in such a situation? They start a new project because it feels more beautiful. So they escape the blockade and take the path of least resistance.
Stephen King didn’t. He took long walks instead. All alone. And he broke his head over the manuscript.
For weeks he couldn’t get any further until one day enlightenment came. A flash of genius. The novel was saved.
So don’t flee from unpleasant blockades or challenging projects.
Writing tip #28) The reader must find himself again
It’s funny: The reader finds a book particularly useful when he finds himself in it.
Thomas Mann had already said that:
We always only find ourselves in books. It’s funny that the joy is still high and that we declare the author a genius.
Thomas Mann (1875-1955), German writer, 1929 Nobel Pr. f. Lit.
That means for you above all one thing: Be credible, real, and human. The closer to the reader, the better.
Writing tip #29) Please don’t suck anything away
Do you like to chew gum after someone’s already chewed it?
Then why do you use sucked-out phrases that every author has chewed ten times?
Let’s be honest: we all go the easy way and choose the lazy phrase.
There is a “feverish search” because after all, there is “no price without diligence” – that’s what an expert told me who “talked out of the sewing box.”
We can do better than that.
Writing tip #30) Pictures yes, clichés no
Pictures are Nutella for your brain. The human mind thinks in images and loves them – just like I love Nutella.
Pulitzer also said: “Write pictorially, then they will remember you.
But what he didn’t mean were the hackneyed clichés and images that we read every day in pathetic texts.
“He ran like a possessed man,” because he was looking for the “needle in a haystack” and because he didn’t find it “he became as white as a sheet” and “pissed off.”
Please spare your readers from such pictures. These are not pictures, they are screensavers. Nobody looks at something like that voluntarily.
Make an effort and go crazy. Think up new pictures, new comparisons, and twist familiar patterns. Then you will tear the reader out of his deep sleep.
The question that changes everything
I particularly liked the phrase by Stephen King. It’s the question that can change everything in your life:
“Does someone really have to put a sticker with the inscription “LETTERER” on it to make you think you are?”
That was my most important insight 3 years ago when I started to take Writing seriously. One thing became clear to me: I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to see myself as a blogger. I am one because I have chosen to do so, not because others have called me so.
I kept telling myself, “I’m a blogger. I’m an author.”
Believe in yourself – especially if the others don’t.
Be great, write magnificent.