How to Write Like Stephen King


Like him or not, Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books. Many of his novels and short stories have been adapted into movies, TV shows, graphic novels, and comic books. Clearly, he’s doing something right.

As far as I’m concerned, a man who is that successful has plenty of room on his coattails for us all. (I’m sure that much success buys a lot of topcoats!) I’m a lifelong fan of Stephen King, so I have a generally good idea of what he’s doing right. I would now like to pass all my wisdom onto you.

So, do you want to be a successful writer like King? Here’s the secret formula.

Write stuff. I’m about 90 percent certain that Stephen King kept a journal while he was gestating in his mother’s womb. He writes an ungodly amount of stuff and it seems to have no beginning and no end. He’s like the infinity of writing. He’s published 50 novels, five non-fiction books, more than 200 short stories, and nine short story collections. This doesn’t count all his screenplaying, nor does it consider all the stuff he wrote before he was the Stephen King. He started writing when he was a kid (like I said, gestating in the womb) and is an unstoppable force. So you need to start writing, like, now.

Write any stuff. You may think of King as the master of horror, but he’s done a lot more than that. The Body or Shawshank Redemption, anyone?

On second thought—don’t just write any stuff. It has to be good.

Be weird. Obviously.

Name someone Ellen. For some reason, King really likes the name Ellen. He has primary characters named Ellen (think: Pet Sematary), he has secondary characters named Ellen, and he’s got characters-in-passing named Ellen. If you read enough King, you see some repeat names. Ellen is one of them. I wonder if it’s a placeholder. I use the name Anna as a placeholder, but so far none of my ones of tens of fans have noticed.

Win lots of awards. So far King has won the O. Henry Award, Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Bram Stoker Award, World Fantasy Award, British Fantasy Society Award (that’s probably a fancy one), the Nebula Award, Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. So if you want to be like Stephen King, you need to start winning stuff. If you need help getting started, let me know and I’ll give you the Awesome Reader of Erin’s Blog Award. It’ll get you far in life. Trust me.

Be controversial. Some people will like you, and some people won’t. For those who won’t, have some good words to say (you’re a writer, after all—you’re supposed to be good with words). When you get your Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and some people in the business call you a hack, say something like this:

I salute the National Book Foundation Board, who took a huge risk in giving this award to a man many people see as a rich hack. .. (I have no) patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they’ve never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer. What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?

Join a rock band with Amy Tan on tambourine. You don’t necessarily have to be any good. That’s not the point. See here.

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