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.