14 Tips from Stephen King

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here are 14 tips, distilled from Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a must-read for all writers and wannabe writers.



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Many Winding Roads to Success

winding roads

Whenever I need a strong dose of inspiration, I refer to the following story about one of the most prolific writers of our time.

A laundry worker, who lived in a trailer, earned $60 a week at his job while his wife worked night shifts. The man had a burning desire to be a writer and spent his nights and weekends typing manuscripts to send to agents and publishers. Each one was rejected with a form letter that gave him no assurance that his manuscript had ever been read.

Finally, a warmer, more personal rejection letter came in the mail, stating that, although his work was not good enough to warrant publishing, he had promise as a writer and should keep writing.

He forwarded two more manuscripts to the same friendly publisher over the next eighteen months, and as before, he struck out with both of them. Finances got so tight that the young couple had to disconnect their telephone to pay for medicine for their baby.

Feeling discouraged, he threw his latest manuscript into the garbage. His wife, committed to his life goals and believing in his talent, took the manuscript out of the trash and sent it to Doubleday, the publisher who had sent the friendly rejections.

The book, titled Carrie, sold more than five million copies and, as a movie, became one of the top-grossing films in 1976.

The laundry worker was Stephen King.

Source: Stand and Deliver: How to Become a Masterful Communicator and Public Speaker (Dale Carnegie Training)


What’s In a Name?

The topic of pseudonyms came up on a discussion board. Several writers expressed an interest in using pen names and wanted more information about the legalities involved.

I was surprised to see so much interest in the topic. I had always associated pseudonyms with female writers such as Mary Anne Evans/George Eliot, who used a male name to ensure that her work would be accepted by publishers and the public.

While researching the topic, I discovered many more reasons for using pen names.

Authors who regularly write in more than one genre use different pen names. Romance writer Nora Roberts writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb.

A pen name may be used if the author believes that his/her name does not suit the genre. Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey.

In some countries, authors use pen names to write about controversial topics that could be politically unsafe.

Writers of romance novels are often advised to use pen names to protect themselves against stalkers.

In the past, prolific authors were asked to use pen names to prevent flooding the market with too many books in one year. Stephen King published four novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. After critics pointed out style similarities, the books were reprinted with Stephen King’s name. One of his books, Thinner, sold twenty times more copies after the changes were made.

Some writers wish to keep their writing career separate from their everyday life. Comic book writer Stan Lee was born Stanley Lieber. He used the pen name Stan Lee because he intended to save his real name for more serious literature. His career as a novelist never materialized so he changed his name legally to Stan Lee.

A collective name or house name is used with series fiction such as the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins series. The first book in each series was written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers.

Collaborative authors like to have their books published under one name. Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini write their Coffeehouse Mystery series using the pseudonym Cleo Coyle.

Last year, J.K. Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling, which she published under the pen name Robert Gailbraith. In an interview, she commented: “”I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre to work without hype or expectation to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

Regarding the legalities…

You don’t have to file any forms or hire a lawyer. Simply put the phrase “writing as” on your manuscript and let the publisher know your real name to ensure that you receive payment for your work.

Any other interesting pseudonym stories out there?

Many Winding Roads to Success

winding roads

Whenever I need a strong dose of inspiration, I refer to the following story about one of the most prolific writers of our time.

A laundry worker, who lived in a trailer, earned $60 a week at his job while his wife worked night shifts. The man had a burning desire to be a writer and  spent his nights and weekends typing manuscripts to send to agents and publishers. Each one was rejected with a form letter that gave him no assurance that his manuscript had ever been read.

Finally, a warmer, more personal rejection letter came in the mail, stating that, although his work was not good enough to warrant publishing, he had promise as a writer and should keep writing.

He forwarded two more manuscripts to the same friendly publisher over the next eighteen months, and as before, he struck out with both of them. Finances got so tight that the young couple had to disconnect their telephone to pay for medicine for their baby.

Feeling totally discouraged, he threw his latest manuscript into the garbage. His wife, totally committed to his life goals and believing in his talent, took the manuscript out of the trash and sent it to Doubleday, the publisher who had sent the friendly rejections.

The book, titled Carrie, sold more than five million copies and, as a movie, became one of the top-grossing films in 1976.

The laundry worker was Stephen King.

Source: Stand and Deliver: How to Become a Masterful Communicator and Public Speaker (Dale Carnegie Training)