Stephen King's Rules for Writing

I stumbled across an article online recently about Stephen King's 20 Rules for Writers ( Being someone interested in writing, I eagerly opened the link to see what one of the most prolific and successful writers of our era had to say on the subject since he is an obvious expert.

In the article, he talked about the importance of an opening line as it was the invitation to the reader to read your book. It made perfect sense. If a book doesn't catch the reader's attention in the first few lines then they're not likely to keep reading. It's like a song having a catchy hook that makes you want to hear more of that song or more from that musician.

The article went on to discuss Mister King's book On Writing and its mention of the importance of writing a rough draft but then doing serious revisions to really set the tone and direction of the book. Eventually, the article gets to the top 20 rules the blog's author took away from the book.

Most of the rules resonated with me. Things like "write for yourself", "don't worry about making other people happy", "kill your darlings", and "stick to your own style". Those are all things that have been the foundation of my writing. I have said it from the beginning that I tell the stories I want to tell, not necessarily the stories people want to read. I write because writing is what I want to accomplish. I don't worry and stress over sales because my goal is to write, not sell. My writing is told in a way that I enjoy reading it, even if others don't, and I don't have any reservations about killing my characters, regardless of their importance to the preceding plot lines.

But one of the things that stood out the most to me was "read, read, read". One of the rules was for writers to read. Reading improves a writer's vocabulary, introduces them to a variety of writing styles, and just in general gives writers more tools and knowledge to help them grow and improve as writers  themselves. While this isn't terribly shocking to me, it does fly in the face of my personal dislike of reading.

I've made it no secret that I am not a fan of reading. Reading requires me to sit still. Reading requires me to focus on one thing. Reading requires me to find a quiet place with no distractions. These are things that are difficult for me to do. I've never been one to sit still. To this day, when I get still I fall asleep. I can't manage to read but just a few pages before I get sleepy and put the book down. It doesn't matter if it is a physical book or a digital book. I just can't typically read them for an extended period of time. Likewise, I find it difficult to focus on a book and not think of anything else. My mind is always racing and bouncing from topic to topic, something that also inhibits my writing. When I try to force myself to read I often just look at the words but don't really consume them. I can finish a book and have very little knowledge of what I actually read. In one eye and out the other, I suppose.

But there were other things like "write one word at a time" and "take a break" that really offered some encouragement to any writer. It is humbling to have someone like Stephen King talk about not always knowing the perfect story in the first draft and that writing is accomplished one word at a time. Mister King is considered a true genius of his genre and one that many aspiring authors look to emulate. Finding that commonality between yourself and someone like Stephen King can be reassuring. Sure, I will likely never find the level of success of Stephen King with my books but it is nice to know that at least at one point in his career that our methods and approaches partially aligned.

And I'm sure that different readers will take away different lessons from these 20 rules but for me, it was that if I really want to improve my writing not only do I have to continue writing but I have to also make time to read. And to really read at that. There are a lot of nuggets of wisdom to be found in that list of rules. Take from it what you will but for me, it was both encouraging and educational.

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