American author Stephen King is one of the most well known fiction authors of our time. He’s won multiple international awards and sold over 350 million copies of his books worldwide- more books than Madonna has sold records. Here are his top writing tips taken from his manual “On Writing”.
1) Write for Yourself, Then the Audience
According to King, when writing your first draft, it’s good to write as though you’ll be the only one reading it. Write as the ideas come to you. Then refine your work later.
2) Stop Trying to Make Other People Happy
To succeed as a writer, being rude or politically incorrect should be the least of your worries. King says, “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
He recommends reading a broad range of material and reading often to best improve your writing skills. Doing this, you’ll be able to keep your ideas and expression sharp.
4) Don’t Stress Over Grammar
According to King “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes.” Correct grammar isn’t the goal of fiction (and why not other genres?). Instead, he says that you should focus on making the reader feel welcome and then tell the story. The goal should be to make the reader forget as often as possible that he or she is reading at all.
5) Don’t Use Passive Voice.
King dislikes the passive voice. Rather than asserting confidence and leadership, it shows uncertainty. In fact he says, “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners.” As an example of how to apply this, rather than writing in the passive: “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock”, you should use the active voice: “The meeting is at seven”.
6) Don’t Use Adverbs
He also doesn’t like adverbs. He says, “Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door?”
7) Do You
Don’t try to imitate someone else’s style. After all, trying to copy someone else’s work will never produce something as good as the original. He says, “Vocabulary is not the same thing as feeling and plot is light years from the truth as it is understood by the mind and the heart.”