On Writing by Stephen King: Note to Self (2/2)

Adding to my pervious post: Note to Self (1/2) here are more note on On Writing by Stephen King.


  • Stephen King distrusts plot
  • Lives are largely plotless
  • Plotting and spontaneity of real creation are not compatible
    [ I feel the same way. When I’m forced to turn in a plot, I feel my characters are puppets/flat/dead when I want the characters to tell me where to go and they have the right to change their minds. ]
  • Stories are found things and writers discover and excavate


  • How-to + how-much-to
  • Must learn from reading and writing a lot
  • First visualize what you want readers to experience, then transcribing it into words
  • begins in writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s imagination


Ask yourself

  • Why bother writing it?
  • What is it all about?

Writer’s job

  • 1st draft (during/just after): read over and decide what it is about (might be hidden until now)
  • 2nd draft: make the theme even more clear


2nd draft = 1st draft – 10% (word count)

On Writing by Stephen King: Note to Self (1/2)

I’ve wrote about what I learn from On Writing by Stephen King about being a writer. Here I begin to take notes from the part of the book on writing skills.

On Vocabulary

Use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.

  • No need to be ashamed to use short and precise words
  • Don’t force unfamiliar “big words” into your writing
  • Use the first word that jumps into your mind

Avoid Passive Tense

  • Why? It’s weaker, harder to read, less clear.
  • Why? It’s the voice of a timid, fearful writer.
  • When? If using a subject brings up passive tense, try switching the subject.
    Example: "The body was hidden." vs. "The killer hid the body."

Adverb Is Not Your Friend

  • Why? Avoiding it will lead to a better expression. Example: “He closed the door firmly” vs. “He slammed the door.”
  • Why? It’s lazy and uncreative.
  • Why? Adverbs are weeds among good writing.
  • Where? In dialogue attribution:
    • If you write in active verbs, the readers should already follow the speakers’ emotions without adverbs. Adverbs only weaken the writing.
    • It’s best to use “said”, also 1 of the Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. And avoid over using attribution verb, like he “gasped”.
    • “…” he said, with a flush. This is an adverb phrase–a taller weed.

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen KingA friend recommended On Writing by Stephen King after I shared my challenge with plotting out the rest of my first book. Though I never read any of his books, I know he must be pretty good to keep his readers asking for more.

He shared two things that surprised me the most.

He is a slow reader

Since English is not my first language, I’ve always thought being a slow reader is one of the main reason why I may not ever be a good writer. I guess he just kicked the crutch I’ve been using to drag myself down.

He reads for the fun

Almost all the writing books tell me to “study” other books for the plot structures or the writing techniques. Something I could never do. If the book is good, I just want to read it, If the book is uninteresting, I’d stop to save myself time for work or another book. It’s good to know Stephen King, a great writer, reads for fun, too.

Some reviewers of this book did not like that Stephen spent good part of the book on his life journey to be the writer he is today, instead of going straight into the how-to-write part. I thought it is good to remind people to look further back than his successful career.