“The road to hell is paved with adverbs” and other useful Stephen King advice


[Feature photo: Russ2009]

Title: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

The skinny: This book is part memoir and part killer guide to writing, no matter your genre or style. King interweaves his life story (from childhood to emerging author to full-blown writing superstar) with practical information about fine-tuning the writer’s craft. King’s wisdom comes from past experiences – like a near-fatal accident and a terrible addiction that overpowered his life. Like the Amazon description says, “On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.”

Why you need to read it: I’m not a Stephen King fan by any means. I’ve tried reading several of his books, and I’m lucky if I make it to page 10. I just don’t get it. I’m not into his genre, and that’s fine. Whatever.

But I read this book because someone gave it to me as a present, and I absolutely devoured it. The way that King seamlessly tells his life story while at the same time delivering a full-blown original lecture on writing is just…inspiring? Beautiful? Enthralling? Delightful. Plus it’s entertaining as hell. Having him talk about his accident kept me riveted for hours.

One of my favourite lessons learned from this book is this: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I admit I still use adverbs, but he makes an excellent point. Remove an adverb from your writing and replace it with something more concrete. For example: “The rain fell quickly on the tin roof.” Remove “quickly,” and use your creative genius to paint a prettier picture. “The rain hit the roof like quick fingers on a piano.”

And, of course, the ultimate writer truism: “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.”

What I learned from it: The genre doesn’t make the author. There’s a reason why Stephen King is one of the world’s most successful best-selling authors of all time.

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