When I was younger, I fell in love with horror novels. Paul Jennings and the Goosebumps books were basically a gateway drug towards the likes of Stephen King.
Fast forward to now — no matter how many of Stephen King’s books I read, I can never quite put my finger on the magic behind them. Ever so subtly, King has the ability to freak me out. It doesn’t always happen instantly — his scenes and stories settle upon me over the minutes, hours, days that follow until I find myself unable to stop thinking about them. He really has mastered his craft.
His story-telling ability aside, one of the most impressive things about King his is ability to produce such huge volumes of work in short periods of time. As George R.R. Martin once asked him, “How the f*%k do you write so fast?”
Firstly, he’s not the norm.
Stephen King is an anomaly. Sure, we can learn plenty from him and his processes but we should never feel lesser because we don’t write or publish as much as he does.
I love King, I love his work and I love his advice for writers. On Writing is one of the best books I’ve ever read on the craft. But I would never hold myself up to his standards — after all, I’m only human and I’m pretty convinced he is not.
His characters are captivating.
If you’ve read a lot of Stephen King, you’ll know that he has a knack for creating captivating characters. The way he introduces his characters and invests the reader into their life and story immediately is an incredible skill. And if his readers love reading about these beautifully crafted characters, one can only imagine the joy that comes from King himself whilst creating them.
His ability to create distinct and fascinating characters would no doubt help his writing process. These characters are so clear and realistic to him that the way they talk, react and grow throughout the novel would come naturally.
Nothing helps a writer write faster quite like a) knowing your material well and b) being passionate about the topic.
He reads a lot.
If you’re a fan of King, you will have heard this fact many times. One of Stephen King’s most famous quotes is that “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” — Stephen King
King says he aims to read about 80 books a year, which is pretty damn impressive considering it almost seems like he publishes the same amount of his own work…
He writes a hell of a lot.
Like any skill, one can only get better with time and practice. And the better one becomes at something, the faster one can perform the task at hand. In King’s beloved novel, On Writing, he says he writes approximately 6 days a week (even on holidays). He says he usually aims to produce at least 6 pages a day.
I recently wrote a piece about how nothing you write is ever a waste of time and I truly stand by this. Not only is it the truth, but it’s comforting to know that your efforts (despite you deeming them a failure) are positively impacting on the bigger picture of your skill set and writing aspirations. Each and every word you write makes you a better writer.
He avoids the television.
So many of us often say that we don’t have the time for our hobbies and side hustles, and yet we fail to realise the amount of hours wasted on TikTok, Instagram, Netflix and the TV.
But if you could swap out just one show a night for time spent writing (or even reading), that’s an extra 30–60 mins a day. A lot can be done in that time.
King himself refers to TV as “poison to creativity” and insists that writers need to find the imagination within themselves instead of being held captive to the creativity of others. Being able to write authentically from one’s own mind is yet another way to ensure our writing isn’t stifled and slow.
“TV — while working out or anywhere else — really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.” — Stephen King
Avoiding or reducing the amount of time that you spend watching the TV can a) clear up free time to write and b) unblock your sense of imagination from the influence of other people’s imaginations.
He enjoys the process.
King insists that one must “write for themselves”. He says that if you love something, you can do it forever. In order to enjoy the process, he says that writers should write what they love, and write for themselves instead aiming to please others. He says about the public’s opinion, “If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.”
Don’t waste time worrying about what other people may think of your work. Instead, write because you love it, and write what you want to write.
“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.” — Stephen King
So, just how does Stephen King write so fast, and what can we learn from him?
- Firstly, go easy on yourself. We can’t all write as prolifically as King.
- Love your characters so that you feel invested. Their story will flow through you like silk.
- Read a lot.
- Write a lot.
- Avoid distractions, especially those that can have an impact on your imagination (the TV). Your own imagination will suffice.
- Write for yourself and don’t bother trying to impress or please other people.
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