Archives for posts with tag: Stephen King


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” STEPHEN KING

Illustration: New Yorker cartoon by Charles Barsotti, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

In a CNN interview, Stephen King gives concise answers to a variety of subjects — including his writing routine, which he says helps him get into his daily writer’s trance. Here’s the quote:

I have a routine because I think that writing is self-hypnosis and you fall into kind of a trance if you do the same passes over and over.”

Watch the video at


“You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right – and breaking your train of thought and the writer’s trance in the bargain – or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don’t have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it … but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.”

Source: The Writer’s Handbook (Writer, Inc., 1988), available at

Illustration: Collage by Pilgrim, Photo by Daniel Salo, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Aspiring writers love to barrage established writers with nuts-and-bolts questions: Where do you write? When do you write? How many hours do you write each day? Long hand or keyboard? Do you outline? Do you write character bios?

My favorite answer regarding plot comes from the boy pictured above who grew up to be probably the most successful novelist of all time. Yes, it’s Stephen King, and whether or not you enjoy his productions, you’ve got to admire his skill and sheer output. (For the record, I admire King as a writer and as a human being and have enjoyed many of his books — especially Thinner and Misery.)

Here’s what the King has to say about plot:

I distrust plot…because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible. A strong enough situation renders the whole question of plot moot. The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a what-if question.

King explains that all of his novels started out as a situation that popped into his mind while showering, driving, or walking. (Such as the situation that led to the novel CujoWhat if a young mother and her son became trapped in their car by a rabid dog?) 

The most startling revelation, to me, is that King not only never plots his books, but he also never even scribbles down “a single note on a single scrap of paper.”

Excerpt taken from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craf by Stephen King.

Photo: Stephen King, age five.



“I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, most fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read.” STEPHEN KING

Photo: Stephen King gets caught reading WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? by Kate Atkinson at a Boston Red Sox game, photo by James Borchuk (10/14/2008).



Publisher’s Weekly described WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? as,  “unrelated characters and plot lines collide with momentous results.” Find the novel at


The PARADE Magazine that accompanied today’s Los Angeles Times featured an interview that Ken Tucker conducted with Stephen King on the subject of books and reading. The interview includes a little bit of everything — King’s summer reading list, favorite books, reading experiences with his now-grown children (as kids, he had them  read books into a tape recorder — and paid them $10 per cassette — so he could listen to the books while driving or walking), and his belief that “if you can read in the 21st century, you own the world…because you learn to write from reading.”


In the article, King also takes time to promote his latest book — JOYLAND, which has been described as a PG-13 mystery novel — set for a June 4, 2013 release. Here’s the book description from Amazon.comSet in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

King is holding off releasing JOYLAND as an e-book because he loved paperbacks as a kid and “folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” His move should also help drive readers to traditional bookstores to pick up a copy. But for online book buyers, you can find the 288-page novel for just $7.77 at

Photo: Stephen King, as featured in PARADE magazine.


“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.” STEPHEN KING

Photo: Stephen King (born 1947) circa 1970. King’s first novel, CARRIE, was published in 1973, when he was 26.

Yesterday, I took a walk and wandered into one of the OUT OF THE CLOSET thrift stores that brighten the world here in Southern California. This is my favorite place to look for books — because the people who contribute have great taste in literature and the prices are the low, low, lowest anywhere.

My three finds on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, we among the best I’ve ever hit. Is this the way people who play slot machines feel when three cherries appear? I paid just $1 for each of these books — and all were in beautiful condition.

Without further ado, here they are (along with a passage from each)…


“The address that Patrolman Mancuso was looking for was the tiniest structure on the block, aside from the carports, a Lilliput of the eighties. A frozen banana tree, brown and stricken, languished against the front of the porch, the tree preparing to collapse as the iron fence had done long ago. Near the dead tree there was a slight mount of earth and a leaning Celtic cross cut from plywood. The 1946 Plymouth was parked in the front yard, its bumper pressed against the porch, its taillights blocking the brick sidewalk. But, except for the Plymouth and the weathered cross and the mummified banana tree, the tiny yard was completely bare. There were no shrubs. There was no grass. And no birds sang.” From the novel A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole, first published by Grove Press in 1980 (and winner of a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for the author).

THE GROVE PRESS READER 1951-2001, edited by S.E. Gontarski, also features work by Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Marguerite Duras, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Jean Genet, D.H. Lawrence, Harold Pinter, and scores of other leading authors of this half-century in international arts and letters.


The cover blurb of THE AMERICAN NIGHT: The Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume 2 reads: “A literary last testament from rock’s poet of the damned.” (Is that really a sales pitch?) As most breathing humans (and some animals) know, Jim Morrison (1943-1971) was the driving force of the seminal 1960s band, The Doors.


by Jim Morrison

Do you know the warm progress

under the stars?

Do you know we exist?

Have you forgotten the keys to the Kingdom?

Have you been born yet

& are you alive? 

Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths

of the ages

Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests

[Have you forgotten the lessons

of the ancient war]


And, finally, one of my all-time favorite books — I’ve given away probably 10 copies of ON WRITING by Stephen King and always snap up a copy when I find one.

Here are some words of wisdom from the writing wizard: “I believe that plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible…my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and transcribe them, of course)…stories are found things, like fossils in the ground…stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”


“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” STEPHEN KING

Illustration: New Yorker cartoon by Charles Barsotti, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” STEPHEN KING, On Writing