Writing Tips from Stephen King: Read and Write!

Stephen King on reading and writing.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

Writers Must Read

Stephen King’s statement is one of my favorite quotes on writing. It should be repeated often and expressed in as many ways as possible.

Writing begins with reading. It is through reading that we learn how to tell stories, how to choose words and craft sentences. The books we read will inform and inspire the books we’ll write, and there’s a lot we can learn from the authors who have gone before us. How can we write if we don’t read?

Writers Must Write

It might seem obvious: if you want to be a writer, you have to write a lot. But a lot of would-be writers are struck with an idea and think they can become published authors overnight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say things like how hard can it be to write a book? Anyone can write a book. You have to do a lot of writing before you’re experienced enough to write a book that people will pay to read — unless you’re some kind of prodigy, which most of us are not.

Stephen King’s sage wisdom on reading and writing is the foundation upon which all writers can build their habits and practices. So what are you waiting for? Pick up a book, read a few chapters, and then dig into a nice, long writing session.

How often do you read? How much do you write? Do you have any favorite quotes on writing? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!


About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.


8 Responses to “Writing Tips from Stephen King: Read and Write!”

  1. F.A.Ellis says:

    I try to read anything everything that interest me.I read books,too.But, I try to build my vocabulary,and stimulate my mind from reading. Also I do sometimes have my creative juices flowing to write.The problem is, when I think about writing something,I’m not near a pen and paper to write anything down.
    Now,My main focus is trying to get a unfinished manuscript finished even thought it’s been sitting dormant for two years,now. I thought if I would write a short story book,and put it out there,just to see where I’m at.
    How often do I read ?Just about every day,and a book usually take me about a week or two to finish depending on if it’s a good book or not.And as far as writing is concern I read more than I write,I don’t know if procrastination or something else with my writing.

    • One of the most common pieces of advice for writers is this: carry a notebook with you at all times. You can also use your smart phone or a tablet to write when you’re on the go. That way you won’t lose ideas and if you’re struck with inspiration, you will have writing tools handy. I keep a small notebook in my purse (and other locations, like my nightstand). I think a smart phone is one of the best tools for writers. I have a Kindle app and several text apps plus a voice recording app on mine and I’ve made good use of all of them. I probably don’t read enough right now. I have too many active writing projects and they are taking time away from my reading, but things will slow down soon and I’ll be able to get back to my massive to-read pile.

  2. Fiona Ingram says:

    Help another author out in your reading by reviewing books and putting those reviews on book sites. I have learned a lot by reviewing other writers’ works and seeing what I should or should not do. It’s great experience.

  3. Shauna Viele says:

    Ah, there’s the conflict: how to reconcile my 12-hour dayshift job that pays the bills, the housework on days off, appointments, and needs of offspring with the writing life. I love to read, but then that takes up what spare time I have for my writing. Writing itself is a full-time job, and I don’t function very well on 2 hours sleep. (Yes, that has happened when I’ve been working on projects.) It definitely helps to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I just purchased Stephen King’s book “On Writing” but I have 2 other books in line first that I need to finish. Maybe. I may also go back to them and read his first. And then there’s those scrapbook pages I need to finish… I think the main problem is, I need to establish DISCIPLINE in my life! Don’t think even Mr. King got published without that first.

    • A 12-hour dayshift is pretty long! I can see how it would be hard to get to reading and writing with a schedule like that. You mentioned scrapbooking… I scrapbooked for a while but eventually decided that I didn’t have time to scrapbook, play guitar, draw, read, and write. I ended up doing things in phases. I would scrapbook for a few months (while my music and writing suffered from lack of practice) then play guitar for a few months (while everything else suffered)… on and on it went. I finally realized I had too many hobbies and putting that small amount of time made them hobbies because I couldn’t give any of them the attention they needed to elevate them into my profession or livelihood. I made a decision to pursue writing and pretty much dropped everything else, at least for now. I might revisit my old hobbies between big writing projects. Earlier this year, I made a scrapbook for my mom (a printed one, online via Shutterfly) and when I have time for a short, creative break, I do a little drawing. But I definitely give reading and writing top priority and if I don’t have time for those activities, then I don’t have time for the others.

      I’m not suggesting you give up scrapbooking–I’m just saying that if you’re really crunched for time, maybe prioritizing would help. On the other hand, if these are all hobbies and you’re not trying to turn any of them into a career, then I say just do what you want when you want.

  4. I read quite a bit and it’s an eclectic bunch of books. I’ve discovered I even enjoy YA; what a surprise that happened to be! An average novel will take me two or three days, squeezing it in anytime I can throughout my day.

    I also write every day. I discovered that writing doesn’t necessarily have to be working on a novel, short story, or play. Writing an email or a blog post helps to enhance my skills as much as creative writing. My monthly column ends up being a well-spring of an education on research, proofreading, editing, and tightening (in particular) to meet the maximum word count before submitting to my publisher.

    My favorite writing quote is from Maralys Wills: Damn the rejections, keep writing and keep submitting.

    You never know when you might strike the string of words that resonates with an agent or publisher.

    • I do think writing emails is worthwhile, especially if we’re giving the writing due diligence, but I also don’t think it’s quite the same as doing our creative writing. I write almost every day too, mostly blogging and copywriting, but I don’t think it’s doing anything for my fiction or poetry writing skills, so I need to carve out some time to work on story and poems each day. Submitting is good!