Stephen King’s (Surprisingly) Non-Terrifying Writing Advice

Steven King as an Owl

As a writer, it’s hard to be more famous than Stephen King. With over 50 terrifying novels written and 350 million copies sold, Mr. King is one of the most financially successful novelists of all time.

Needless to say, Mr. King has found a winning formula. His work methods are of interest to anyone that wishes to gain more readers, sell more products, and generally kick more ass (as most MailPoet users do!)

In this post, we’re going to dive into King’s advice for writers. His advice (just like his novels) is both well-written and accessible, which makes it ideally suited for the budding WordPress blogger.

Looking for more writer-inspiration? Check out our posts on Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.

Avoid Unnecessary Adornment

If there’s one piece of advice that nearly all writers agree on, it’s this one: editing is key. Abusing adjectives and adverbs is a sure path to bad writing:

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.

When writing the initial draft of a post or newsletters, it’s okay to be verbose. However, it’s important to remember that the first draft of anything is typically written by the writer for the writer, even if subconsciously. As King notes, you should always go back and remove extraneous details that seem relevant to you personally but actually have no meaning to your readers.

When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story…When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.

Remember: the difference between good writing and great writing is editing. Don’t be fooled by the false notion that quantity is more important than quality – at the end of the day, your readers are busy and they want to read your absolute best work.

To write is human, to edit is divine.

Let your Vocabulary Grow Naturally

Inexperienced writers often try to sound more educated or intellectual by adding fancy vocabulary into their writing. Although this may seem like a good idea, it’s ultimately one of the worst things you can do, according to King:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

Instead, let your vocabulary grow naturally. Read advanced pieces of literature as much as you can, but absorb the vocabulary through your pores, not by actively seeking to collect highfalutin words. Ultimately, the goal is for your writing to be natural, not forced. Your readers aren’t stupid – they can tell when you’re faking it. And inauthenticity never sells well.

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word—of course you will, there’s always another word—but it probably won’t be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.

Stir Your Reader’s Imagination

Bloggers have a tendency to write exclusively about themselves and neglect the viewpoint of their readers. But, just as with fiction, empathy is paramount in nonfiction blog posts and Ebooks. It’s not enough to just describe your personal experiences – you need to make your reader feel like they are having the experience, too.

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

How do you do that? Easier said than done, I know. But it doesn’t need to be difficult. Simply start your posts by describing your own thoughts and problems, but finish them by allowing the reader to “fill-in” the blanks with their own imagination.

If you’re a travel blogger, for example, don’t just describe your own exotic adventures – leave some room for your readers to imagine they’re coming along for the trip. Remember: if you’re writing publicly, then you’re ultimately writing for someone else. Otherwise, you’d be writing in a private journal :)

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.

A Special Place for Writing

Finally, King recommends designating a specific spot for the sole purpose of writing. Don’t cram it with books, posters, mousepads, and photos of friends and family. I personally recommend disconnecting your Wi-Fi connection, too (after you collect all of your resource material).

Your dedicated writing space should be dedicated to writing and not to getting lost on the Internet. More importantly, having an isolated “nest” will allow you to write freely, without the subconscious inhibition of the “Publish this post” button or the latest essays on Medium.

Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream.

We actually have a previous guide on this topic, which is filled with awesome tips on how to declutter and optimize your workspace. My personal favorite: turn off all the lights in your room, except a single one on your writing desk. The more bland your workspace is, the better.

Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room.

Even if you aren’t aiming to be the next big science-fiction-horror author, Stephen King is a writer any MailPoet blogger can learn from. Adopting his unique blend of accessibility and descriptiveness is a surefire way to grow your audience, educate your readers, and succeed more in the competitive world of blogging.