Monday, March 02, 2015

Stephen King on Writing

An article he published in 1986 in The Writer -- Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully – in Ten Minutes -- is largely devoted to advice on publishing fiction [hat tip to @AkshatRathi on Twitter].

By sheer coincident, Jessica Lahey's interview of Stephen King on how he teaches writing to high school students also showed up in my linkstream.

If you are into this sort of stuff, both are worth your time. Let me post a couple of excerpts from the first article. Here's how he defines success for a writer:

... For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success – publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented. Now some of you are really hollering. Some of you are calling me one crass money-fixated creep. And some of you are calling me bad names. Are you calling Harold Robbins talented? someone in one of the Great English Departments of America is screeching. V.C. Andrews? Theodore Dreiser? Or what about you, you dyslexic moron?

Nonsense. Worse than nonsense, off the subject. We’re not talking about good or bad here. I’m interested in telling you how to get your stuff published, not in critical judgments of who’s good or bad. As a rule the critical judgments come after the check’s been spent, anyway. I have my own opinions, but most times I keep them to myself. People who are published steadily and are paid for what they are writing may be either saints or trollops, but they are clearly reaching a great many someones who want what they have. Ergo, they are communicating. Ergo, they are talented. The biggest part of writing successfully is being talented, and in the context of marketing, the only bad writer is one who doesn’t get paid.

He ends his piece on a highly quotable quote:

If it’s bad, kill it

When it comes to people, mercy killing is against the law. When it comes to fiction, it is the law.