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Stephen King on Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

Everyone knows Steven King. But, do you know how he became such a successful and prolific figure in the publishing industry? Do you know a number of years ago, Stephen King almost died from a traumatic car accident? Are you an aspiring writer that wants to know the secret to getting your books published and making professionally? Well, look no further than this terrific book by none other than Stephen King.

In the first section of his book, Stephen recounts his childhood and the important events leading up to his adult life as a husband, father and a school teacher. He talks about how his writing process before he became successful, how in the early years he would balance a child size desk on his knees, as he wrote locked away in the laundry room of their tiny mobile home. This first section will give any unpublished writer a glimmer of hope. You quickly realize that Stephen King is not a god.

He may be known around the world, and have legendary cult status, but he is an ordinary guy just like you and me. He was successful because he spent an immense amount of time perfecting his craft and had luck on his side. The question posed is whether or not the life of a writer is something that you can actually live with? It is said that writing is the loneliest profession on earth. King says you have to literally lock yourself away from the world in order to churn out 1500-3000 words per day and the solitude can be tough on a person’s emotional stability. As for myself, I thrive on the isolation, but others it might be deafening.

At one point in the story, we hear how Stephen got the break of a lifetime, when the paperback rights to his book Carrie sold for $400,000. Because his contract stipulated a 50/50 split on such sales, Stephen grossed $200,000! With stories like this, the aspiring writer is invigorated with the possibilities.

The second section focuses on the practical aspects of the writing process. Stephen starts off with his number one rule: tell the truth. He states that if you are not honest with your audience, if you don’t tell the truth in what you are writing, they will know it and will walk away. He advises the writer to treat writing like any other business. Go to work each day. Do your work. He estimates that a solid novel is about 180,000 words and that a writer should be knocking out 2000 – 3000 words per day. He reveals that he used to tell reporters that he took time off for holidays and special events, but in reality, Stephen writes every day.

He advises the ambitious writer to do a few things that will help him in the process. One is to turn the television off for good. He claims that it only rots the brain. Another step is to find or construct a writing room that serves as your primary area to write. it doesn’t matter what is in it, or if you have a chair, desk, sofa – no matter. What is important is your space is conducive to writing. One essential element that your writing room must have is a door that you are “willing” to close. This is paramount, as the endless distractions of life will continue to crowd in on you while you are writing until you stop. Lastly, a writer who wants to be successful needs to read. He recommends reading for hours out of your day. Read everything. You can read in the car by listening to audio books, while working out on a treadmill, in the bathroom, while in the line at the grocery store. He recommends always having a book with you and read, read, read. This will fine tune your thinking and you will be exposed to how others writers write.

On writing itself, Stephen claims that authors do not create stories, but uncover them. As a writer, you need to also outrun boredom and self-doubt. If you don’t, the tidal wave of negativity will wash over you and mire your story in the mud for good. The last section of the book recounts the traumatic accident when he was hit alongside the road by a van. He nearly died, and has spent years recovering from his injuries. After reading this account, I decided not to go for my regular walks along the road anymore, but now exercise in my bedroom on my stationary bike. No reason to take chances, right?

Overall, this book is a great boost to the unpublished writer’s self-esteem. Not because it makes us feel any better about our own work, but because it shows us a glimpse into the life of a genuine writing legend. You come away with the notion that Stephen King is just like you and me. There are many similarities that you can draw from his life, and you realize he is not a superhuman person indwelt with a rare and special gift. His secret: he worked hard on his craft by writing alot. He did not let life wait for his writing career, and he wrote for the love of writing and not for the love of money. I think this is the greatest secret of all.

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