Stephen King isn’t my favorite author, but I’ve read a ton of his stuff. Pet Semetary is my favorite but the Dark Tower series is pretty good as well. The interesting thing is even though that’s eight books, it barely scratches the surface of the material he has produced. He has some classics and some stinkers and a whole lot that falls in an uncomfortable gray area.
In particular, he has a book that caters specifically to writing. On Writing is half how-to and half memoir, and both sides of it are valuable to anyone who wants to be a writer. Anyone who writes knows they have to had a day job to finance that love, has to deal with coming home after a long day, take care of your kids and/or significant other and sometime along the way find a time to write. His memoir discusses several of the crappy jobs he had and a lot of the obstacles he encountered trying to become one of the most well known authors in the U.S. (maybe the world, unsure on that).
Even though he’s not my favorite author, he has some of the best advice I have seen on writing. His dedication to the medium is above and beyond what I have heard from a lot of people. And two things, if they’re not explicitly stated I think they’re insinuated, really stand out to me.
One, he’s willing to try anything. He comes up with an idea and he writes. We know him for his horror, but he wrote a lot of plane jane fiction. Other stuff is straight up fantasy or science fiction. The point is that he’s not afraid. If it doesn’t go anywhere, oh well. If it doesn’t turn out great, oh well. If it doesn’t sell well, oh fucking well. A lot of the books you see with this man’s picture on the back are crap and you will wonder how he ever come up with the idea. But this is also the man that wrote…(takes a deep breath)…the whole Dark Tower series, Running Man, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Stand By Me, Pet Semetary, The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Carrie, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Misery, Dreamcatcher, The Mist, and The Shining. How many of those do you know of but didn’t know he wrote? Any one of those books would have made an author’s career.
The thing that makes this possible is the second thing. He writes. And writes. And writes. He churns out books like nobodies business. He has written books on typewriters, computers, and legal pads, in cramped rooms, spacious desks, or in the damn hospital bed recovering from life threatening injuries. He once told someone he writes every day but Christmas and the 4th of July, but that was a lie to make him sound like less of a workaholic. He writes every day! And he writes ten pages. He doesn’t stop until he has produced what he wants to.
Again, everyone has their own style. King doesn’t outline, and you can see it in his work. There is a raw quality, a rambling nature as he wanders down his plot. He doesn’t edit much and keeps a large chunk of the first draft intact. His stories will often times go in off the wall directions, completely different than what you think should have happened. The Tommyknockers and The Stand in particular suffered from this quality. That is something I have never been able to incorporate and as long as I continue to see personal success, I won’t.
I’m not saying you need to write like King. But check out this book. If you only take one thing away, I guarantee it will be something that pays time and time again. Whether you like his books or not, he has grown up writing and many of his insights are the reason I completed my story.