Sept. 20, 2020

On Writing by Stephen King: Why boredom is the key to great writing

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About the Book On Writing

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.



About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game and It.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.



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BIG IDEA 1 (6:39) – Be ready.

Stephen argues that good ideas come from nowhere. It might be two unrelated ideas in your brain that will suddenly collide and create something beautiful. Your job is not to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up. So you need to be ready, to listen, look around and see where those ideas might appear.

This means turning off the TV and putting away other screens to start noticing things in order to be ready for the good ideas to arrive. He also talks about readiness by taking writing seriously, being intentional and approaching the blank page with meaning.

BIG IDEA 2 (8:21) – Kill your darlings (and your adverbs).

Creating a space between the original writing and your final draft can make a world of difference. When it comes to editing, Stephen said that when you write a story, you are telling yourself the story. But when you re-write, your main job is to take out the things that are not the story.

Editing involves killing the words, paragraphs and even characters that you put in and that you are so attached to, but you have to let go of in order to tell the best story. One of the quotes in the book says that “writing is refined thinking.” It is not just talking on paper. 

This also includes killing your desire to use longer words than necessary. He said that the best words you should use are the first ones that come to your mind, if they do the job.

And whilst you are busy killing your darlings, you should be killing your adverbs too. They are a lazy way of describing an action or dialogue which should have been made obvious by the preceding prose.

BIG IDEA 3 (12:13) – Read a lot, write a lot.

Reading equals writing. Stephen said that if you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time, or the tools, to write. Reading broadly let’s you work out what you do and don’t like and can help you find your style.

Joining writing classes might not give you the silver bullet to writing, but helps you find good critics. There is no secret ingredient, just read a lot and write a lot. This goes back to the big idea number one about being serious and not coming lightly to the blank page. It takes intent and a lot of practice to write well.


Music By: Cinematic Ambient Piano by OlexandrIgnatov (via Envato Elements)

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