The Writing Rules of Stephen King


In my blog series on the writing rules of some famous writers, I’m looking today at what Stephen King has to say.

I can safely say that we’re still in the territory of the big guns here! I’ve super-condensed his rules into 10 big ones:

1.  Be talented
2.  Be neat
3.  Remove every extraneous word
4.  Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft
5.  Know the markets
6.  Write to entertain
7.  Evaluate criticism
8.  Observe all rules for proper submission
9.  An agent? Forget it. For now
10. If it’s bad, kill it

These rules are so straightforward and succinct that I don’t want to weigh them down with a huge blog post. They speak for themselves.

Now listening to Led Zeppelin: Kashmir (from Led Zeppelin [Disc 1])

To wear your heart on your sleeve isn’t a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best. Margaret Thatcher

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The Writing Rules of Annie Dillard

In my series of blog posts featuring the writing rules of famous authors, I now come to Annie Dillard. In other words, we are now firmly in the area of mystical, other-worldly talent.
If you haven’t read any of her books, Holy the Firm might be a good place to start. The book is about beauty, horror, and holiness. My life would have been poorer without that book.

Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard’s writing rules are quirky: things I would never have thought of are universal laws to her. But that doesn’t matter – if Annie Dillard says “never write with a red sweater on,” then that’s how it’s going to be.
Here are her rules:

  1. Put all your deaths, accidents and diseases up front, at the beginning.
  2. Don’t ever use the word ‘soul’
  3. Vivid writing comes from precise verbs.
  4. All of the action on the page happens in the verbs. 
  5. Narrative writing must be in sequence and make the reader feel what you felt.
  6. Avoid emotional language.
  7. Take a draft and delete all but the best sentences. Fill in what’s missing, making the rest reach for those best sentences.
  8. Count the verbs on a page; tally the count for each page and average them.
    Now see if you can increase the number of verbs per page. In each case, have you used the right verb? When did this happen in relation to this?

Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.
Audrey Hepburn

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Now listening to Sonja Herholdt: Môre Sal Die Son Weer Skyn (from 50 Grootste Geestelke Treffers (Disc 1)) through my favorite media player, MonkeyMedia.

Arthur Miller’s 10 Rules of Writing

In my ongoing series on famous writers’ ‘Rules for Writing’ I’m looking at the dramatist Arthur Miller today. I quote unashamedly and with gusto from Wikipedia: “He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (one-act, 1955; revised two-act, 1956), as well as the film The Misfits (1961).”

And here they are. Thanks and kudos to whoever blogged them for us first:

1. Work on one thing at a time until finished.

2. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

3. Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!

4. When you can’t create you can still work.

5. Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.

6. Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

7. Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.

8. Discard the Program when you feel like it – but go back to it the next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

9. Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

10. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Quote of the Day:
Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.
–C. Archie Danielson