Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Everything I learned about writing by reading Stephen King

I have to tell you, my all time favorite author and my "mentor" is Stephen King. I have read and re-read so much of his work that it has taught me nearly everything I know about writing. Every writer should have his book ON WRITING sitting on their desktop or close at hand.

  • Show the story.
  • Use the reader's imagination.
  • Give few details, let the reader fill in the rest.
  • Streamline your story.
  • Always leave your readers wanting more.







Show the Story:
It doesn't get more straightforward than this. Show vs. Tell is a topic every writer should be aware of and must understand the basics before they can write. Use action verbs. Stay away from adverbs. Be flawless in your writing and the readers will notice.

For example, I received this quote for my latest book, GOOD INTENTIONS.

"Flawlessly written and heartbreaking, you won't soon forget this story."
Sammie Callahan


Use the Reader's Imagination:
Draw a vivid image inside the reader's imagination using the words you create. Let the reader free flow along with you as you create your story. Use your words to give the reader the chance to see the images in their mind and create the "movie" inside their head.


Give few details, let the reader fill in the rest:
Don't go overboard on description and background information. Don't fill pages with words the reader will probably skip over, anyway. Stephen King is the master at this. He uses a few words, a bit of detail and all of a sudden, you, the reader have the entire description inside your head. It may not be the same for the next reader, but that's okay. It works for you. It works for them. Make it work in your next writing project.


Streamline your story:
Keep your story lines fluent and easy to follow. Don't get all convoluted and try to be tricky. Write a good story and your readers will appreciate you for it.

For example, I received this quote for NOT WITHOUT ANNA.

Ms. Taylor's writing style is clear, without frills, and so streamlined that her story flows and flows and flows, without taking a break, to its satisfying conclusion. Maeve of Tara 


Always leaving your readers wanting more:
End your stories with a bit of a question still floating in the reader's mind. Give the reader only what you want, never more. Have them come back to you and ask, "Yes, it ended, but what about...?" That's the sign of a good story. Always leaving the reader wanting more.

For example, I received these quotes for my novel FOREVER UNTIL WE MEET.

It is one of those stories that you just want to keep going and going - even after the last page has been reached. Kristie Leigh Maguire  
I look forward to seeing more of this author's writings. Linda Strong    

"The art of a good storyteller is giving the reader what they want and knowing what not to give the reader so they can use their imagination." -- Vicki M. Taylor
Happy Writing,

38 comments:

tomika B said...

I can't wait to share this with my kids...Thanks. Comment luv from SITS

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Thanks, Tomika. I hope your kids enjoy!

Melissa said...

Thanks for sharing the things you have learned! I now have some new things to think about when I write ...

Carli Alice said...

I haven't read Stephen King in years. He is truly a master of his craft and I agree with all your points. He understands how to engage without rambling. I could tell you the funniest story about a King book I read but I don't want to take over your blog. :)

The Editor said...

Absolutely true. Stephen King's On Writing, along with William Zinsser's Writing Well, should be within arm's reach of every writer, and should be re-read often.

Nancy

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I haven't read his work, but these are great tips.

From Tracie said...

I have heard so many good things about On Writing....I really need to pick up a copy of it! I love these tips.

Modern Gypsy said...

Lovely post! I think I need to re-read On Writing.

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Thank you all for posting. I'm glad my blog left you with tips you could use. Carli, I'd love to hear your King book story. I have a contact me tab, you could write it in there. Yes, to anyone who doesn't have ON WRITING, you must get it. And if you have it, re-read it. Thanks!

Lyndylou said...

Thank you so much for the tips :)I plan to go out and buy this now.

Savvy WorkingGal said...

I read this book and wrote about it on my blog a few years ago. I am posting my favorite paragraph from his book because I like it so much:

Another argument in favor of writing courses has to do with the men and women who teach them. There are thousands of talented writers at work in America, and only a few of them (I think the number might be as low as five percent) can support their families and themselves with their work. There’s always some grant money available, but it is never enough to go around. As for government subsidies for creative writers, perish the thought. Tobacco subsidies, sure. Research grants to study the motility of unpreserved bull sperm, of course. Creative-writing subsidies, never. Most voters would agree, I think. With the exception of Norman Rockwell and Robert Frost, America has never much revered her creative people; as a whole, we’re more interested in commemorative plates from the Franklin Mint and Internet greeting-cards. And if you don’t like it it’s a case of tough titty said the kitty ‘cause that is just the way things are. Americans are a lot more interested in TV quiz shows than in the short fiction of Raymond Carver."

This book inspired one of the bloggers I used to follow to quit his day job and become a full-time writer/blogger.

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Lyndylou, congratulations on taking that all important step. Buying SK's On Writing book. You won't regret it.

Savvy WorkingGal, thanks for your post and that paragraph from SK's book. Truly inspirational.

P. G. Shriver said...

What a great post! Love Stephen King books, as well as Dean Koontz. I completely agree with their style and that advice! Every writer should read this book!

P. G. Shriver
pgshriver.blogspot.com

Jessica said...

Excellent tips, a great resource for any writer. Thank you for sharing!

Luke Abaffy said...

I see and I believe!

Student Mommy said...

I love that you're a published author that I read on FMF! That's soo cool! Congrats on your SITS day.

Bev Feldman said...

On Writing is definitely on my "to read" list. Great trips for writing, and a happy SITS day!

Nicole Nenninger said...

Great post! When I was younger, I read every single one of King's books. Now that I'm older, I find that I can't read his material because the subject matter stays with me--I can't read scary novels anymore. Maybe I'll have to give it a try again...I don't have much training in writing, just what I've had to learn in college and grad school to write scholarly papers. I've had to segue out of scientific writing on my own. You've really inspired me to look into writing for pleasure and professionally. Thanks for an informative post! Visiting from SITS...

Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama said...

This is fantastic, these are such excellent tips!! I will need to add this to my list of "to-reads" enjoy your SITS day!

Emily @ TheBusyMomsDiet said...

I love Stephen King! The Dark Tower sent me down a long spiral of reading everything he's written and I'm so glad I got lost in his universe. Happy SITS Day!

Mothering From Scratch said...

{Melinda} I write non-fiction, Vicki, but I think most of those principles could apply to my writing as well. Great advice.

Hope you have a wonderful SITS Day!

Lynne said...

Fantastic advice. I would love to read some more of your stuff!!

misssrobin said...

Great tips. My favorite is to not overdo it with the details. Detailed writing makes me crazy! I think that's why Tolkien never worked for me. Way too much description. If I'm skipping pages to try to find the story again, it's not a good book for me.

Shari Lynne @ www.faithfilledfoodformoms.com said...

Great tips Vicky! I use to read Stephen King but he makes my feet sweat he's such a good writer!! LOL He does all the things that you suggest to be a good writer and more. I have nightmares! LOL Happy SITS day!

Kim@Co-Pilot Mom said...

I have heard so much about On Writing. I think it may be time to look into it. These are wonerderful tips, Vicki!

Sheila Skillingstead said...

I also love Stephen King's writing book. A very nice post. Enjoy your SITS Day.

Denise Bertacchi said...

Happy SITS Day! Somewhere there's a quote from King on how to tell if you're a professional writer. He basically said if you've ever been paid for your writing, and then used that money to pay a bill, congratulations...you're a professional writer.

Dana @ Kiss My List said...

Great advice! I admire King's writing, and your points illustrate why he is such a compelling author. Happy SITS day!

Michelle Nahom said...

I have read many of Stephen King's books but not all. I love his style of writing and totally agree with your points...I just sometimes get spooked easy! But these are great things to remember and I think I will also pass these writing tips along to my teenagers as well!

Ashley said...

Such great tips! I absolutely am convinced to go pick up Mr. King's book. Stopping by from SITS. =)

Adrienn TUJ said...

Great post, and thanks again for sharing! Happy SITS day!

ateachablemom.com said...

Great info, Vicki. I'm going to Amazon right now to buy SK's book! Happy SITS Day!

hoppybottoms.com said...

Great tips. I am going to read that Stephen King book!

Rabia said...

I used to read more Stephen King than I do now because (like someone above said) his stuff freaks me out a bit too much now. But there is no denying that he is a great author!

Danielle D'Ambrosio said...

Happy SITS Day! I love these tips - something every blogger can remember :)

Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories said...

I have been wanting to read Stephen King's book On Writing as well. I love the quote you closed the post with and that's what I love about reading, using my own imagination to fill in the gaps that the author left to my imagination. It makes the story more compelling and resonant for the reader.

I haven't read any of King's books but he's on my TBR list for sure. Thanks for sharing and happy SITS Day!

Miranda Pridgeon said...

Great post! Stephen King is my second favorite author (2nd to Dean Koontz). I love his work and this was a very informative post! Love it!

Visiting from SITS.

Melissa said...

Happy SITS Day!!

Great blog post! Love that book!