Author Topic: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading  (Read 3234 times)

JRTomlin

One interesting quote:

"I feel that a first draft should take about four months, but that’s me. And I go over my work obsessively."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/07/stephen-king-interview-the-institute?fbclid=IwAR3HYzgs6tm3erPJHOkrcd5tjLJl9JmtKx4JMsjF1FAmBz4I2ShmxWkjuMQ
« Last Edit: September 09, 2019, 07:29:54 AM by JRTomlin »
 

She-la-te-da

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2019, 06:30:08 PM »
I think he should do what works for him, and others should do the same. Don't get me wrong, I love reading his work (except for that present tense stuff), but not everyone can be creative in the same way. It can take years to find out how we can best get the story down, with lots of false starts.
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 
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JRTomlin

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2019, 03:48:59 AM »
If you read the article, you would discover that is what he says.
 
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The Bass Bagwhan

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2019, 10:20:23 AM »
Maybe it's the way the article has been written and edited, but from the brevity of SK's answers and the slightly dismissive tone, you get a sense that he isn't enjoying the interview. Perhaps, after all these years, SK doesn't like his credibility still being questioned.

I think it's interesting, but largely irrelevant, how successful authors write. With the luxury of a large bank account, your craft being truly a full-time job, and never a question over whether or not the next book will sell a squillion — let alone be published — the mindset and work ethic is on another level.

But I'd like to give it a try...
 

JRTomlin

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2019, 11:18:01 AM »
He sure didn't start out that way. Early on, he struggled as much as the rest of us and his success is deserved. His description in On Writing of his pretty desperate struggles early on when a royalty check meant being able to buy baby medicine (the pink stuff as he called it) really resonated with me when I was starting out.

I don't think short answers are necessarily dismissive, but that article wasn't intended as a 'how to' article. I just thought he had some interesting things to say. Even On Writing isn't particularly a 'how to write' book so much as a book on how to survive being a writer. He is grimly honest about his struggle with addiction in that as well.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2019, 11:20:13 AM by JRTomlin »
 
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Shoe

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2019, 12:04:52 PM »


I think it's interesting but largely irrelevant, how successful authors write.

I almost always pick up useful tips when reading about my favorite author's habits, routines, and processes. I don't think I've ever thought once about how much money they've made.

And I particularly enjoy learning about their favorite authors and the books that inspired them. My favorite regular feature in The Guardian is "Books That Made Me". Each new column usually has me immediately reading a dozen "Look Insides" and reserving books at the library.

Books That Made Me
https://www.theguardian.com/books/series/books-that-made-me
Martin Luther King: "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
 
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MaxDaemon

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2020, 11:13:38 AM »
For some reason, King seems to make people angry. He IS an old curmudgeon these days, but he's still got a lot of good stuff.

On Writing pretty much kicked me into actually considering the possibility. Not for any real direction, but for the feeling it was possible. King wrote in the laundry room, f' gosh sakes. Probably with laundry running ..

And one thing that King says over and over is that you need to read to write. And I'd agree, On Writing wasn't a "teach me to write" book. Far more a "don't do what I did" for a goodly part of it. :-)



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Jepson

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Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2020, 10:11:13 PM »
I'm not a huge King fan, but I'm a far cry from hating the guy. He obviously has a lot to say and should be saying it.
 

jaykay

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2020, 07:29:26 AM »
For some reason, King seems to make people angry. He IS an old curmudgeon these days, but he's still got a lot of good stuff.

On Writing pretty much kicked me into actually considering the possibility. Not for any real direction, but for the feeling it was possible. King wrote in the laundry room, f' gosh sakes. Probably with laundry running ..

And one thing that King says over and over is that you need to read to write. And I'd agree, On Writing wasn't a "teach me to write" book. Far more a "don't do what I did" for a goodly part of it. :-)

Same for me. It was just a huge inspiration/motivation to write and left me feeling I could do it.
 

Jade @ covertocoveredits

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2020, 10:20:24 PM »
I agree, whether you like his books or not, Stephen King has enough experience to be a good well of knowledge and advice for writing. Same really goes for any established author, even if you don't read their genre, you can take their process or their insights and apply it to your own.
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PJ Post

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2020, 01:09:25 AM »
I think it's interesting, but largely irrelevant, how successful authors write.

I'm on the other side of the fence on this one when it comes to craft. I'm not influenced by the money, but rather by the success, which does, after all, come first. I believe that, regardless of the creative field, we have a lot to learn from those that came before us, especially the stuff they seem to have in common.

I like to think outside the box, even deny the box, but the box exists for a reason - it's usually full of best practices. And I'm always going to suggest that beginners spend a fair amount of time exploring them.

As for King, he seems like a good human with a genuine desire to share what he's learned, as well as encourage. Nice, light interview.
 
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seppy123

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2022, 08:12:02 AM »
 I believe he's probably right, but Amazon algos weren't a thing when he started out. For him, they still aren't. He doesn't need Amazon's help to sell a book. Self published authors can fall into oblivion if they take that long on a first draft. I mean I know of some who are a whiz at marketing and don't crank them out that fast, but for most self publishing their book is their best marketing tool and they need to have it published ASAP. I'm not saying put it out with a zillion typos and huge plot holes. You just might not have the luxury of spending so long on the first draft if you want sales.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2022, 07:51:32 AM »
Yeah, the conditions Stephen King deals with are very different from our own.

I sometimes, wonder what publishing history would have been like if Stephen King had made his effort to break away from traditional publishing after KDP developed rather than before?

Remember The Plant? That was Stephen King's shot at what would today be self publishing. The first part was free, after which people could pay for the other parts. (They were all PDF files.) The response wasn't bad, but it wasn't as much as Stephen King expected, so he gave up the whole idea. People weren't ready for that approach then, even with such a prominent author. But I bet if he'd used an established vehicle once there was one, the result would have been very different.


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She-la-te-da

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2022, 09:09:52 AM »
I remember when King did the self publishing thing. I thought it was the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of. And ebooks? Were these people all crazy? And then I got a Palm TX and found free books to read. And I was hooked. Not only do I read ebooks, I write and -- gasp! -- self publish them.

Oh, life. She does like to laugh at us, doesn't she?
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

writeway

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2022, 05:31:55 PM »
I don't agree with his quote since I am a naturally fast writer. People write at different speeds and in different ways and that's fine. What he says works for HIM but will not work for everyone. I admire Stephen King very much for what he's accomplished. You don't end up being the Master of Horror for over 40 years (and not dethroned yet) by accident. The man is brilliant at what he does. I admit I do not care for his style of writing though. I have tried to read several of his books and I just couldn't get into them. I liked the movies much better but as an author, I definitely give Stephen his respect. What he's accomplished is amazing. King brought horror into the mainstream where it crossed over to audiences who never would've read it before.
 

sliderule

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2022, 11:00:22 PM »
I'm really glad there isn't a lot of 'omg his book On Writing is the writing book you must own!' It's a good book for what it is but it's not a definitive book on writing. In fact, I seem to recall very little in the way of practical actionable advice. Good advice on the writing process that works for him, though.

That said...

I do not care for his style of writing though. I have tried to read several of his books and I just couldn't get into them.

Same. However, I love his novellas and short stories. I feel they're tighter, more polished reads. His novels are doorstops and read very bloated to me.

That's the thing about SK. He can be a polarizing figure. But he is a successful one and is worth at least considering his advice and pointers.
 

alhawke

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #16 on: October 29, 2022, 02:17:52 AM »
He doesn't need Amazon's help to sell a book.
Two years ago I saw one of Stephen King's new novels on release day. It had three reviews on Amazon. I love that because that's reality outside of our publishing world. Of course, a week later it had over a thousand.

Stephen King is success.  :cheers I don't love all his stuff, never read On Writing, some of his books can move slower at times--sure, but he's a great writer. And I've learned from his craft reading The Shining and Carrie, two books I love (love the movies too).
 
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seppy123

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2022, 01:35:25 AM »
He doesn't need Amazon's help to sell a book.
Two years ago I saw one of Stephen King's new novels on release day. It had three reviews on Amazon. I love that because that's reality outside of our publishing world. Of course, a week later it had over a thousand.

Stephen King is success.  :cheers I don't love all his stuff, never read On Writing, some of his books can move slower at times--sure, but he's a great writer. And I've learned from his craft reading The Shining and Carrie, two books I love (love the movies too).
I loved On Writing and I think he gives great advice on story telling. I just think the average self published author who doesn't have a lot of money to throw into advertising would have a hard time selling if they took 4 months on a first draft. The difference between King and a self- published author attempting to feed the algos for the sake of visibility is apples and oranges. That's why I launched my new pen name with a Vella series. I did it for the sole purpose of having 5 novels waiting to drop before I even think about KU. In the mean time, I'll hopefully get some of those bonuses I hear about. That would be nice to get paid as I write the story.
 

alhawke

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2022, 01:49:04 AM »
I loved On Writing and I think he gives great advice on story telling. I just think the average self published author who doesn't have a lot of money to throw into advertising would have a hard time selling if they took 4 months on a first draft.
I think he's just part of the past publishing generation with that one. I'm sure he could work faster if he started now. Trade can take two years to publish a book--at least, when I looked into trad five years ago. They're probably speeding up to compete with us. It's one reason I'm happy to be Indie. I don't only like producing books fast for marketing reasons, I like producing multiple stories.
 

seppy123

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2022, 09:52:15 AM »
I loved On Writing and I think he gives great advice on story telling. I just think the average self published author who doesn't have a lot of money to throw into advertising would have a hard time selling if they took 4 months on a first draft.
I think he's just part of the past publishing generation with that one. I'm sure he could work faster if he started now. Trade can take two years to publish a book--at least, when I looked into trad five years ago. They're probably speeding up to compete with us. It's one reason I'm happy to be Indie. I don't only like producing books fast for marketing reasons, I like producing multiple stories.
I sadly can't write as fast as some of the Indie's I admire. That's why I learned to have several finished before I launch a new name or series. 3 to publish all at once because readers like to see 3 before they invest in it, and at least two more so I don't fall off the algo cliff while I'm working on another one. It's not how everyone does it, but I think it's the best way for me.
 

LilyBLily

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2022, 01:32:04 PM »
King is, or was, a fast writer. That's why he secretly published books under a different name sooner than a year after his latest--many years ago. I think he understands that part, but the traditional publishing paradigm has rewarded him when he has written long books and taken his time.

I give him props for being experimental about publishing; he tried various things but was just a bit early for ebooks and indie publishing as it turned out. Bottom line, most of us give advice based on what has worked for us.
 

seppy123

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2022, 10:59:44 PM »
King is, or was, a fast writer. That's why he secretly published books under a different name sooner than a year after his latest--many years ago. I think he understands that part, but the traditional publishing paradigm has rewarded him when he has written long books and taken his time.

I give him props for being experimental about publishing; he tried various things but was just a bit early for ebooks and indie publishing as it turned out. Bottom line, most of us give advice based on what has worked for us.
Yes, timing plays a big part. Years ago, I would go to work and come home tired. I'd always order pizza or Chinese so I wouldn't have to cook. I don't remember how many times I said it'd be so cool if McDonald's or KFC delivered. It took a couple more decades, but yesterday I had McDonald's delivered to my door via Door Dash. I always say if you can think it up, someone will do it someday. But the timing has to be right. Door Dash got huge because Covid had restaurants shutting down in door dining and people didn't want to leave their houses to go grocery shopping. That's why I don't count out Vella. The younger generation loves to read on their phones. You've go a whole new generation who doesn't bother buying kindles. It would actually be a great platform if Amazon would get better at allowing you to promote it with ads and links. I think they will eventually. But yeah, King was ahead of his time. That's the only reason he failed at ebooks early on. He didn't have the platform we have now.
 
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PJ Post

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2022, 10:53:36 PM »
Bottom line, most of us give advice based on what has worked for us.

I agree with this. I think writers have a tendency to think their industry is special and the rules for those 'other, less-aeriodite' businesses don't apply. Business is business. Writers should pay more attention to what other Creatives are doing. King has done a lot of stuff over the years (marketing and distribution and packaging) that may or not have worked based on Big 5 spreadsheets, but might be grand slams for Indies.

For example, his Green Mile serial release gave us an early roadmap. We've learned that readers love series, especially serial series (same for streaming). We know from the music business that the album is rapidly dying off, being replaced by regular releases of singles (driven both by consumer behavior and marketing potential). Put those together and we get this: reject the doorstopper books of old, which is, after all, just a packaging strategy, and replace them with a doorstopper of a story, but packaged in shorter, regularly released installments. From a craft perspective, these installments need to be written to provide a complete and satisfying reading experience designed for the shorter form, as well as heighten the anticipation between releases - sometimes known as cliffhangers.

The Pickwick Papers put this debate to rest well over a century ago. And folks haven't really changed all that much since then.

The publishing industry came into its own as a modern marketing force in the 80s and I think we all learned some really bad lessons there, the worst of which are couched within the persistent notion of the brooding, pretentious literary persona. And the worst of those are writers who write about...struggling writers...in really really long, incredibly self-indulgent books.

Which brings us back to King. And while I like him, he's still a big part of that outdated literary history we can't seem to let go of.
 

Hopscotch

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2022, 11:58:57 PM »
Pardon, PJ, but history, literary or otherwise, is never "outdated" tho' perspectives on history naturally outdate as new generations look at the past.  Some of King's inventive efforts to push his books may look outdated now or too far in advance of available tech when he tried them.  But he deserves cheers for his try-anything approach.  Which is the approach promoted here on WS.

Also might say there has been nothing new in marketing or in the business of writing since the first work of Western fiction was written in the 12th century.  Fashions in stories, physical format and marketing come/go/repeat, sometimes driven by reader demand, sometimes by writers and sometimes by outside intervention (eg, US Gov't making The Great Gatsby a success by issuing free ppbk cc to GIs in WW2).  But a good story always is a good story and the best marketing tool.  Which is why that first fiction still reads well - Chrétien de Troyes' story of King Arthur.   
 
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PJ Post

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #24 on: November 04, 2022, 10:03:09 PM »
Pardon, PJ, but history, literary or otherwise, is never "outdated"...

But ideas can become outdated, which is what I was talking about, especially as societies and technology change.
 

LilyBLily

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #25 on: November 04, 2022, 11:18:27 PM »
<snip>

The publishing industry came into its own as a modern marketing force in the 80s and I think we all learned some really bad lessons there, the worst of which are couched within the persistent notion of the brooding, pretentious literary persona. And the worst of those are writers who write about...struggling writers...in really really long, incredibly self-indulgent books.

Which brings us back to King. And while I like him, he's still a big part of that outdated literary history we can't seem to let go of.

The self-indulgent books were always with us. For every person imitating King there were two or three imitating Hemingway and to a much lesser extent, Fitzgerald--but only Gatsby, you know, because, well, he also wrote lots of lighter things, and that wouldn't do. Angst-ridden Great American novels are everywhere in slush piles. Great American fantasy epics, too, ever since Dune.

King's timeline for a big juicy novel is not outlandish, nor is wanting to write one. I've read many a short category romance whose author was clearly feeling constrained by its limitations. It never surprised me when their next release was a much bigger book for a different publisher. As I oscillate between writing 100k books and 50k books, I'm aware myself of the limitations of a short format and the luxury from a story and character perspective of the longer one. King has no particular reason to change his writing trajectory or rhythms now, and apparently they suit him.

The world is wide open and choices abound. There always have been. Plenty of very short fiction was written prior to the digital age, for instance. There were dime novels, pulps, comics, short stories, and more. Some people wrote fast and others more slowly. To become a hardcover novelist, though, was to join the pantheon of authors who had the leisure to write and perfect just one book in a year and live well on the proceeds while getting one's works reviewed in major papers and magazines and maybe being paid to do an author tour of media outlets once a year, too. Nice work if you can get it. It's still the dream of many writers, I suspect.     
 
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Hopscotch

Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #26 on: November 05, 2022, 08:01:33 AM »
To become a hardcover novelist, though, was to join the pantheon of authors who had the leisure to write and perfect just one book in a year and live well on the proceeds...Nice work if you can get it. It's still the dream of many writers, I suspect.

In my far gone youth, I read Wouk's Youngblood Hawke while huddled down deep in a bunker in a bad war and thought, "Ah, this writing life's the thing for me, the money and the girls, too!"  Should've read King's Misery, instead, nearer the bitter-comic reality of the writing life.  Still have Wouk's old ppbk, tho'.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Love him or hate him, what Stephen King has to say is worth reading
« Reply #27 on: November 11, 2022, 08:21:29 AM »
For example, his Green Mile serial release gave us an early roadmap. We've learned that readers love series, especially serial series (same for streaming). We know from the music business that the album is rapidly dying off, being replaced by regular releases of singles (driven both by consumer behavior and marketing potential). Put those together and we get this: reject the doorstopper books of old, which is, after all, just a packaging strategy, and replace them with a doorstopper of a story, but packaged in shorter, regularly released installments. From a craft perspective, these installments need to be written to provide a complete and satisfying reading experience designed for the shorter form, as well as heighten the anticipation between releases - sometimes known as cliffhangers.

The Pickwick Papers put this debate to rest well over a century ago. And folks haven't really changed all that much since then.
I always thought the serial had potential--and then along came Vella, which made me wonder (though that may just be bad implementation).

If you haven't already, you should visit the Vella section and see what's going on. The reviews are very mixed for a variety of reasons, most of which have been detailed in the thread on the subject. https://writersanctum.com/index.php?topic=4963.msg100501#msg100501

There do seem to be some readers who don't like serials, but there seem to be a lot more who don't like this particular implementation of the concept. And the old serials (like Pickwick Papers) were published in periodicals. Readers paid for the whole periodical. That's different than paying for episodes of a story by themselves--particularly when the collection of episodes will cost more than the same material would cost if purchased as an ebook.

I'm not saying you're wrong about serials, but Amazon at least hasn't yet found a decent commercial model for them.


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