James Smythe gives us a wonderful distillation of the ten most valuable things he’s learned from the writing of Stephen King. It’s an article well worth your time because it expresses in clear prose many things that any writer can learn from arguably the most productive American novelist of the last fifty years. James Patterson may have produced more books, but King’s genre-crossing combination of quality and quantity makes him as formidable and revered a presence in popular American literature as Charles Dickens was in Britain’s literary culture of the nineteenth century.
All ten of these notes are useful and important but, for my money, # 5, 6, 7, and 8 get to the heart of things. And oh, yes, # 10, the admonition to read On Writing–which I must do in its entirety, rather than in snippets here and there–is also important.
King shames me. Here he is, author of 55 books, “the greatest writer of the last thousand years,” according to Peter Griffin, and I’ll be lucky to have written two by the time I’m done. Seth Macfarlane’s joke aside (it always makes me laugh), King truly is a master, and he has been most generous in sharing what he has learned by writing about his craft, speaking about it, and being just about as public as a writer can be in going about the solitary business of putting words on the page.
None of us will be able to match that productivity. But King has never asked us to try. What he has asked us to do is learn what we can, maintain faith in our talent, and produce the best work we can for as long as we can. That’s the whole game in a single sentence.