20 Writing and Screenwriting Tips from Stephen King

Credit: CBS
If you're going to get writing tips, Stephen King is the right person to heed. 

Stephen King is one of the most prolific novelists and screenwriters ever. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, and many have been adapted into films, television series, miniseries, comic books, and mixed media. They span titles like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, It, The Stand, The Shining, Carrie, Misery, Stand by Me, Pet Sematary, Castle Rock, and Under the Dome. 

How do you achieve the kind of success he's had?

Well, just write. A lot. and keep writing until someone takes notice. His personal formula is: "Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."

He even sets out each day with a quota of 2,000 words and will not stop writing until it is met.

Check out these other helpful tips from Outstanding Screenplays and let's talk after the jump. 

20 Writing and Screenwriting Tips from Stephen King

1. Write something that’s forbidden. Say things that others won’t say.

What's your unique perspective? How are you daring to push the envelope and talk about the truths you believe? 

2. Writing is like building a campfire; one by one, your characters must come out of the woods to help add onto the fire, onto the story.

Character introductions all matter. You can say a lot about a person when you meet them, and you can tell a lot about them as they interact with others. 

3. Keep your imagination young.

Burnout is real. Get outside, go on adventures, try new genres, and mentor if you can. Stay young by caring a lot about the world and challenging yourself. Try to find happiness

4. Recognize the difference between horror and suspense.

Know the genre you're working in and the tropes we expect to see. If you can define horror and suspense, you can mix and match them. 

5. To find your story, always keep your radar up for finding ideas, and let them come to you.

Carry a notebook everywhere. Put a pad beside the bed. Sometimes the best ideas just come to you out of the blue. Be ready to capture them. 

6. Begin with an idea from your life, then ask yourself, "What if?"

You're the best main character you have. Think about different situations and what you would do in them. then build backward. 

7. Write simple, visual stories with high conflict if you want your work to be adapted into a film.

Seeing is believing. The more you can communicate the visuals of your story, the more the audience can connect and see the world. 

8. After you’ve finished your book or screenplay, let it marinate for some time, then come back to it.

I have a two-week rule. Finish a draft, then wait two weeks to touch the screenplay. This will give you ample time to think of plot holes, new dialogue, and come back with fresh eyes. 

9. If you keep getting rejected, get a bigger nail for your rejection slips.

Rejection is the name of the game. Even the best writers hear 10 "no's" for every one "yes." Soldier on. 

10. Follow characters and situations and see where they go, instead of resorting to plot.

The plot is secondary to characters that we're interested in and sometimes care about. If the emotions and actions feel real, we'll believe them. And we'll believe their actions. 

11. Start with forcing yourself to write sentence by sentence, until you get into a flow state.

Push yourself. You need to find that rhythm, even on the days where it's not coming easily. Therefore, don't let yourself off the hook. Write, even if it's bad. You can always rewrite later. 

12. Stop putting off reading and writing.

To get better as a writer, read scripts. Learn how other screenwriters handle situations, set pieces, and character development. 

13. Good ideas will stay with you, so write down all your ideas to get rid of the bad ones.

The good ones are the ones you can't shake off. They're the ones that follow you around and beg for you to express them. 

14. Writing can be learned, but it can’t be taught. You learn it yourself.

Much of this journey requires you to sit down and do it. Just write. You learn by challenging yourself. 

15. Writing is self-hypnosis.

Finding the zone means writing enough to get there. When the pages come, you can feel it. Lull yourself into the act and eventually, it will come. 

16. Sometimes writing short ideas will lead to creating longer stories.

Start with a scene. Create a character and a goal. See what evolves from there. Where could this story be going? Think of an ending and build backward. Start small. 

17. Get your rest to come back with a refreshed mind.

Sleep is not overrated. Sometimes you need to just step away from things. Take a break. Relax. Let things happen as they do. 

18. Learn to write for different mediums.

Writing is a muscle, but you can work out different points by practicing screenwriting, short stories, novels, poetry, and anything else. Diversity will bring new ideas to light and strengthen your overall writing. 

19. Choose to write stories that you would like to live with for a while.

I always say don't start a feature you're not willing to work on for five years, because it might take that long and that many rewrites to get noticed. 

20. Get immersed in your writing process until the outside world is gone.

Steep yourself in the story. Let it overwhelm your mind and tune out all else. Dig deep and stew with the story until you know it back and front.      

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1 Comment

read "on writing" by S. King...
a best autobiography of King, written like a Writing book suggest collection.

January 22, 2022 at 10:59AM

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Carlo Macchiavello
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