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Four Lessons from Stephen King's ON WRITING

Stephen King obviously isn't known as a screenwriter, yet as a writer he can still offer us lessons that will apply to screenwriting, regardless. There are a ton of "Tips from Stephen King" articles on the Internet. I wanted to avoid that take here as they all cover the same things. I wanted to go a little deeper into his book ON WRITING;  a wonderful read about the craft and one I highly recommend to all writers. So here are some of what I'll call "lessons" that can be taken from King's book. Please note, King does not prescribe "rules" or anything of  the sort. He's a straight shooter who says here's what I believe and what has worked for me!

1. If you don't have time to read you don't have time to write. King is very clear about how important reading is for writers. The obvious, it expands vocabulary and knowledge. The not so obvious, it cleanses the mind and the soul (my interpretation of King).  As screenwriters read EVERYTHING. Not just produced screenplays which is what everyone talks about. But read Stephen King, John Grisham, Dan Brown, Elmore Leonard, Charles Bukowski, John Fante, or whoever! Also, read an occasional history book. Historians who can tell a good story based in history can teach you not just a little about the French Revolution, but a little on how to write as well.

2. Write a lot. It's subjective how much is a lot, as King notes. King says he likes to write every day and hopes for 10 pages a day. As screenwriters I don't think a page count is a bad thing either, but give yourself leeway to go under or over. How we write is purely subjective. But most  importantly, get yourself writing.

3. Write something that resonates. Yes, easier said. However, I think what he's really talking about is having a point, a theme, be for something or about something. Take a stand, take a fall, but do something with your writing.

4. Don’t care too much what others may think. Literary critics have sometimes had their way with King's work. He's sometimes misunderstood based on the types of characters he creates and the stories he writes. King admits to being a little timid with regard to what people think, and his wife is the first person and most important one who reads his manuscripts. King says his wife is his most honest critic and not afraid to speak her mind. That's good. For you the screenwriter, you can't be phased by rejection or by someone telling you you have no talent. If you believe in yourself you have to keep writing. Keep hustling. Keep doing. It has to be in your DNA and don't be afraid to give your script to someone even if they end up hating it. Get honest feedback.

Hope these few lessons are of service!


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