Writing great fiction is enough of a challenge without all the conflicting advice out there.
When was the last time you read a bit of advice and thought, “But so-and-so said the exact opposite”?
Different people like different styles, so variety is a good thing. And authors like Stephen King realize that.
If he criticizes writing, it’s for the writing itself — whether or not it’s popular. And you don’t have to be a fan of horror fiction to know the man can write!
This is why we gathered up 46 Stephen King quotes on writing. Find your favorites, and enjoy sharing them with your fellow storytellers.
24 Stephen King Quotes on Writing
Enjoy some of the best quotes by Stephen King on writing. And if you have a writer friend with room for another mug, consider having one created with the quote of your choice.
1. “I write to find out what I think.”
2. “You have to stay faithful to what you’re working on.”
3. “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
4. “I’m still in love with what I do, with the idea of making things up, so hours when I write always feel like very blessed hours to me.”
5. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
6. “When asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’”
7. “Wherever you write is supposed to be a little bit of a refuge, a place where you can get away from the world. The more closed in you are, the more you’re forced back on your own imagination.”
8. “Like anything else that happens on its own, the act of writing is beyond currency. Money is great stuff to have, but when it comes to the act of creation, the best thing is not to think of money too much. It constipates the whole process.”
9. “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
10. “Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar. Art consists of the persistence of memory.”
11. “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”
12. “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”
13. “Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it…I have written because it fulfilled me. … I did it for the pure joy of the things. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”
14. “The worst advice? ‘Don’t listen to the critics.’ I think that you really ought to listen to the critics, because sometimes they’re telling you something is broken that you can fix.”
15. “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair―the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
16. “The writer must have a good imagination to begin with, but the imagination has to be muscular, which means it must be exercised in a disciplined way, day in and day out, by writing, failing, succeeding and revising.”
Related: How To Become A Better Writer
17. “There are all sorts of theories and ideas about what constitutes a good opening line. It’s a tricky thing, and tough to talk about because I don’t think conceptually while I work on a first draft―I just write. To get scientific about it is a little like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar. But there’s one thing I’m sure about. An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”
18. “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. Maybe it’s the first really good paragraph you wrote, something so fragile and yet full of possibility that you are frightened. You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes. Oh my God, it’s breathing, you realize. Maybe it’s even thinking. What in hell’s name do I do next?”
19. “Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”
20. “Come to a book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it, and draw your own map… A book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first, you give to it.”
21. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story… When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
22. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
23. “I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out okay.’”
24. “As with all other aspects of the narrative art, you will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect. Why should it? What fun would that be?”
Did these Stephen King quotes on writing inspire you?
Whatever you think of Stephen King and his books, he has more experience crafting stories (many of which become well-known movies) than most authors out there.
If you want to make a living as a fiction writer, it only makes sense to acquaint yourself with the knowledge gained by those who’ve come before you.
And Stephen King has been generous with his insights — and more encouraging than some.
I hope you found some favorites among the quotes listed above. And may your perseverance and love of a good story influence everything you do today.