The master of horror turned 67 today. I wish him many more years of creative success and providing unselfish guidance and inspiration to writers like me.
I saw the movie Carrie before I’d read anything by Stephen King or even heard of him. I then heard the story behind Carrie, which was his spark to success, and it planted the seed that one day I could become a successful writer, too.
In case you don’t know the story, Stephen King was raising kids, working in a laundry facility, and writing in his spare time. Like so many wanna-be authors, he received many rejections from agents and publishers. He gave up and threw the manuscript for Carrie in the garbage. His wife, Tabitha, fished it out and encouraged him to finish it then submit it to Doubleday. The rest is history.
When you look back over his forty-plus year career it’s, by any standards, impressive. He’s produce fifty novels, five non-fiction books, and around two hundred short stories. Then there’s the movies, TV series, graphic novels, and comics.
Most people know The Shining, The Stand, It, Cujo, Misery, The Green Mile, The Dark Tower Series, and Bag of Bones as household words. His recent works Under The Dome, Dr. Sleep, and Mr. Mercedes will also prove timeless.
My favourite Stephen King books are From a Buick Eight, 11/22/63, and On Writing.
King’s brilliant imagination shines in From a Buick Eight. It’s about a possessed car that a small Pennsylvania police department seized and kept stored in their garage. Down-right freakin’ freaky is the best I can describe the story. It held me right to the last word.
11/22/63 is a take on the November 22nd, 1963, assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. The plot is a time traveller going back to prevent the JFK murder. Knowing what I do about the JFK case, I found his attention to detail and historical accuracy impeccable. No question he did his homework, especially in portraying Lee Harvey Oswald to be the wife-beating asshole he truly was.
- The key to good dialogue is honesty
- All novels are letters aimed at one person – your ideal reader
- Never tell a reader if you can show them
- A slower pace gives a bigger and better build
- Kill your darlings
- Get backstory in as quick as possible
- Grammar doesn’t wear a coat and tie
- Read a lot and write a lot
- Just tell the goddam story
One of Stephen King’s writing techniques is to imagine a ‘What-if?’ scenario and go from there, writing as you go and turning up what the mind uncovers. Misery is a good example. What if a psychotic nurse kidnapped a writer in the Colorado mountains?
Here’s a couple quotes from him on successful writing.
If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you paid the light bill with the money, I consider you successful.
Read and write four to six hours a day. If you can’t find the time for that, you can’t expect to be a good writer.
Sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.
Some criticize Stephen King for being too long and verbose. I call bullshit. If you analyse his work, you’ll find that every word is necessary to tell the goddam story. And I love his fearless way of saying it.
They always fuck you at the drive-thru.
Happy Birthday, Mr. King, and keep on writing.