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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


On Writing

By Stephen King
Scribner, 288 pp, 2000

According to Stephen King, my favorite writer and a master storyteller, you only absolutely, positively have to do two things to succeed as a writer:

Read a lot and write a lot.

Thatís it. Everything else is fluff and often nonsense that can just get in your way. Writerís groups, classes, conventions are all very nice, probably wonít do any harm (although they certainly can), but, in the end, theyíre not necessary. Only you can write the words. Only you can tell the story. Only you can produce the magic that is the written word.

King obviously loves the basic act of writing words and sentences. He loves telling stories. According to him, the story is everything. Theme, plot, mood, setting, symbolism, all are nice but secondary. Tell your story first, and the rest will follow, usually in the second draft.

And be honest. Be honest with yourself, be honest with the story, and be honest with the characters. Nothing kills a story like dishonesty. It causes mistrust with the reader. Theyíll think youíre an idiot, a charlatan. Canít sell too many books that way.

How much writing is a lot? King recommends 1,000 words per day, minimum, every day of the week. No exceptions. Yes, it takes discipline (Iím lucky to sweat out 500 words), but it can be done. Close the door, shut out the world, keep out the distractions, and get to work. Pretty soon, you may surprise yourself.

Thatís the core of Kingís advice for young writers. He also stresses the importance of correct grammar, but to him, story is the main focus.

The rest of the book is a brief autobiography of selected scenes from Kingís life that influenced his writing. The anecdotes are all amusing and helpful. At the end, he recounts in chilling detail the accident that nearly killed him.

I loved this book, but King could write a grocery list and Iíd enjoy it. I recommend it to King fans and aspiring writers everywhere. And for those of you who think King is just a hack, this book will prove you wrong.

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