writers tips

Stephen King’s Ten Commandments of Writing

stephen king quotesI got a lot of feedback on Nathan Branford’s 10 Commandments I published a few weeks ago, so I wanted to share another collection. I picked Stephen King because there’s been a buzz about his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, in my PLN–even though it’s a good fourteen years old. When I went searching for his  ubiquitous Writer’s Ten Commandments, I found lots of lists, but each different. It became clear that he has so many great suggestions, trying to distill it to ten became a subjective decision.

What was universal was this #1 Commandment:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King is another in a long list of ultimate writers who exhort would-be authors that the foundation of good writing is reading. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read that advice from the greats–so often in fact, it’s become more axiom than advice.

I counted sixty-seven ‘Top Ten Commandments” as I was researching this article. Here’s my list of his Top Ten:

  1. Humor is almost always anger with its make-up on.stephen king quotes
  2. Write every day.
  3. Find your space.
  4. Write the truth.
  5. Don’t plot.
  6. Practice.
  7. Practice describing.
  8. Practice showing — not telling — through the use of real dialogue.
  9. Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme.
  10. Constant reading will pull you into a place where you can write eagerly and without self consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t; what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying on the page.

Read a list of fifty-six King Commandments here. For favorite King quotes, visit this Goodreads list (you must be a member of Goodreads to view it, but you should join that penultimate writer’s community anyway).

More Ten Commandments:

Ten Commandments from Richard Bausch

Henry Miller’s Ten Commandments of Writing

The 10 Commandments of Fiction Writing

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

39 thoughts on “Stephen King’s Ten Commandments of Writing

  1. Pingback: 11 Tips You Don’t Want to Miss about Writing a Novel | WordDreams...

  2. I love his book On Writing. But not plotting? Wow. I just don’t think that’s great advice. I do agree with everything else, but I think it takes a one in a million kind of writer to forgo plotting.


  3. Great advice and from an excellent writer, so I’ve heard. I don’t like his usual genre but his advice is logical. Still, you can read and you can exercise computer keyboard, but not everyone is a great writer. I try.


  4. Jacqui love this post and enjoyed Stephen King’s book on writing. What I took away is people can get caught up in all the writing rules and forget about a good story. Thats where it all begins, the other stuff we can learn, well we can try.


  5. I hesitate to read King’s non-fictional writings. This could be because I think of him as being so quirky. The ten commandments seem to be so similar no matter what author is advocating them.


  6. I’ve read King’s “On Writing” (in fact I own about 80% of everything he’s ever written), and a number of other writing books – till I realized they began to contradict each other. I discovered many helpful tips, but I always ended up writing the way I talk – so I suppose I always be the same (old dogs and new tricks I guess!) O_o


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