Stephen King's Top 10 Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on November 23, 2012 at 11:05 PM

So you want to improve your writing. But how do you do that? You can take extensive writing classes and dedicate X amount of hours every day pounding on the keyboard. Or, you can read published work that the greatest literary geniuses of our time have provided us.

Take, for example, Stephen King. He's the world's most renowned author, and for good reason. His novels -- like Shawshank Redemption, Carrie and one of his newest, 11/22/63, make up quite gripping reads (and sometimes even better movies!). Needless to say, it's obvious that Stephen King knows what he's doing.

Though I chose to achieve better writing via an academic path, the vast majority of my learning was summarized in one book: On Writing, by Stephen King.

Many of his tips are useful to a variety of people -- people like me who have a lifelong passion for writing and editing, students who just want to improve their essay scores, or those who have never had any writing experience but want to break into the world with the next big novel.

These tips will channel your inner writer and transform your words into something you've never thought yourself capable of. Read on!

1. Get to the point.
Readers are quite fickle -- they can't stick with one thing too long.

Don't risk boring your reader! By getting straight to the point, it's better for everyone -- you don't have to write as much, and it's more interesting!

2. Write a draft, then leave it alone.
King recommends writing a first draft then leaving it alone for a period of time. After he's finished writing, King leaves his manuscripts for several months before he begins the editing process!

For me, I generally give it anywhere between 2 days and a week. If you're on a tight timeline, even stepping away for a few hours and doing a different activity can give your brain a refresher.

Letting your work rest allows you to come back rejeuvenated, so you can get a more detached and clear perspective on your work...which makes it easier to edit. Generally, the more nonsense you cut out (and the more you get to the point), the better your writing is!

3. Cut down your text.

When you finally do go back to your manuscript or writing project, your goal is to cut about 10% of what you currently have. Remove all the superfluous, needless words and sentences.

Make every word count. Minimizing your words will make your message clearer and stronger.


4. Be relatable and honest.

Tell it like it is. Don't use fancy words to dress up your writing; this often results in confusing the reader. Often, it's best to use the first word that comes to mind.

If you're writing a manuscript, give your characters both good and bad sides to them -- they need to have faults, passions, fears, and good moments that the readers can relate to. Readers better connect to stories whose characters they find relatable.

5. Don't care too much about what others think.

If you listen to all the critics and naysayers, chances are you'll get discouraged and won't write. Don't listen to them! Even Stephen King has had his fair share of negative reviews -- and look at him today!

Success only comes to those who don't give up.

6. Read. A lot.

The most successful writers are, without exception, avid readers. As we read, we subconsciously pick up different writing techniques and even subconsciously learn proper grammar usage, new vocabulary, and become more familiar with unfamiliar situations.

"But I don't have time to read," you might say. In fact, there's plenty of time to read -- you just have to find it! Cut down on the time you spend watching TV or surfing the internet, and you'll find free time on your hands. Bring a book with you on the subway, in waiting rooms or while waiting to pick up your child from school. Audiobooks are also a great resource -- listen to it while walking or driving. You'll finish a book much faster than you'd think!

7. Write often.

Even the most professional and best authors can get rusty in their writing skills if they don't use them that often. The best way to become a better writer is to simply write more.

Not feeling the inspiration? Write anyway -- oftentimes, it will come to you. One of the best suggestions is to set aside a specific time each day to write. King's writing time is during the wee hours of the morning.

As you settle into your writing schedule, you'll find it easier and easier to write -- and the material you produce will be better each day.


8. Try new things.

Most writers write how their English teachers told them to write -- and they don't get anywhere. It's those writers who dare to try something new who really get somewhere. But how do you know when your "new thing" is good and when it's crap?

Write it, leave it alone (for at least a day), then come back to it. If it's crap, toss it. If it's fantastic, publish it.


You can be absolutely awful at writing. You can have horrible spelling, offensive grammar or a limited vocabulary.

The trick to becoming excellent is reading and writing, reading and writing, reading and writing. Keep doing it, and you will succeed.

10. Write with passion.

If you're writing a scene that's particularly sad, painful, joyous or disheartening, channel those feelings. Recall a moment in your life where you were feeling that particular emotion, and put it on paper.

Whatever you do, don't take it lightly. Emotion is a powerful element in writing -- it's up to you to harness it and captivate your readers with it.

Once you master the task of writing, your work isn't done! Even the best writing is in need of an editor (Why?). Even literary genius Stephen King relies heavily on an editor to improve his work before publishing it. Writing is only the first step -- once you're done with the writing, send your work out to a professional editor (like me!). Check out my impressive credentials or e-mail me to see how I can improve your manuscript and get it ready for publishing!

Want to learn more about how to build your author brand

and become a self-publishing pro?

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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have

topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: writing

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1 Comment

Reply William Nunes
11:17 PM on April 30, 2015 
Hi Kristen. I had contacted you months ago, but I lost most of my information, contacts, etc ...
so just to refresh i wrote to you about a manuscript that I have, and you asked me for more information, so here we go. its fantasy ( at least I think it is,) has around 54 thousand words. my problem to start: I'm from Brazil, living in Miami, I began the EAP classes, but you know its not enough to write a book, especially in a language that I barely speak, so i need a editor, and I have been searching on internet and I found you. and never been edited before. whatever you need to know send me a email...I know my manuscript its going to be a puzzle. or maybe not. so talk to you soon.