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22 lessons from Stephen King on how to be a great writer

He pursued no other profession. His… More about V. A meditation on art and life. A visionary vantage over the wider human condition. His writing gleams with brilliance. Wonderfully written. But there is much there for any enquiring mind, as it offers the insights and observations on literature, history and cultural sensibility of an honest and truly global thinker. Naipaul is at his best here when teasing out the ironies and complexities of cultural exchange in the persons of figures with whom he can identify.

But this is a brilliant work from a man who more than anybody else embodies what it means to be a writer. As ever, his sentences are tightly coiled and muscular; they embody the very qualities they praise. Read An Excerpt.

Sir V. S. Naipaul - Literature

Naipaul By V. Naipaul Best Seller. The people in your stories are what readers care about the most, so make sure you acknowledge all the dimensions your characters may have. First and foremost, stop using the passive voice. It's the biggest indicator of fear. Writers should throw back their shoulders, stick out their chins, and put their writing in charge. If it works, fine.

If it doesn't, toss it," King says. In his eyes, substance-abusing writers are just substance-abusers.

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As King says, "You can't aim a book like a cruise missile. An important element of writing is transference. Your job isn't to write words on the page, but rather to transfer the ideas inside your head into the heads of your readers.


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In his advice on writing , Vonnegut also recommends that writers "use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. As writer Susan Sontag says , "The story must strike a nerve — in me. My heart should start pounding when I hear the first line in my head.

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I start trembling at the risk. I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace. If you fail to write consistently, the excitement for your idea may begin to fade. When the work starts to feel like work, King describes the moment as "the smooch of death. King likes to write 10 pages a day. Over a three-month span, that amounts to around , words. If you spend too long on your piece, King believes the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel. King suggests six weeks of "recuperation time" after you're done writing, so you can have a clear mind to spot any glaring holes in the plot or character development.

He asserts that a writer's original perception of a character could be just as faulty as the reader's. King compares the writing and revision process to nature. Screw-ups happen to the best of us.

Critical perspective

When revising, writers often have a difficult time letting go of words they spent so much time writing. But, as King advises, "Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings. Although revision is one of the most difficult parts of writing, you need to leave out the boring parts in order to move the story along. In his advice on writing , Vonnegut suggests, "If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

King attributes his success to two things: his physical health and his marriage. It's important to have a strong balance in your life, so writing doesn't consume all of it. In writer and painter Henry Miller's 11 commandments of writing , he advises, "Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

World globe An icon of the world globe, indicating different international options. Yet, he told me that during the majority of his day he is not being overly productive and feels trapped. If there are no customers for him to talk to, he feels like he is wasting his time. I have been friends with this particular person for over 3 years now and I have to say that he and I have had countless fantastic conversations. We have talked about a wide array of subjects and he is someone that I have always felt a close connection with.

In a lot of ways, him and I are one in the same. But last night during our conversation something was different with me. Something was different with the way my brain was processing the things that he was telling me. My mind was seeing the images of him standing on the curb at his dealership waiting for customers to hopefully show up.

I could feel his sadness and anxiety not knowing if he was going to hit his sales quota this month. I could feel his loneliness. I could feel his yearning desire to be reading and writing instead of being a slave to this dealership. Everything inside me was connecting to his desire to be liberated from the rat race.

As he was talking to me about all the memories he has missed of his daughter growing up…. At my last job, I used to work as many hours as he currently does and I know how miserable I was having to work for someone else.


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I still remember the feeling of how I too longed to be free and to be doing something I was genuinely passionate about. Sure, I made great money but I had to sacrifice every aspect of my mental and emotional well-being in order to keep working there and it took its toll on me.

While my friend was talking about how much he is looking forward to leaving his job and focusing more on writing and spending quality time with his family, it hit me like a ton of bricks…. For the past 4 months or so I have developed a much stronger sense of empathy. I have been able to have a much easier time relating to other people.


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Every situation or conversation I have had during this time has impacted me in some sort of way. I have been able to remember details that people have shared with me much easier. I have also been able to remember vivid details of different situations I have observed during this time frame too. As I have started to write more often, I have noticed that I do not take many things for granted anymore like I used to. Nature and the warm humid breeze I feel during the day where I live.