“Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers. Some are on staff at your local newspaper, usually reviewing little-theatre productions or pontificating about the local sports teams. Some have scribbled their way to homes in the Caribbean, leaving a trail of pulsing adverbs, wooden characters, and vile passive-voice constructions behind them.” Stephen King, the master of horrific imagination, wrote one of the best books ever on the art of writing. I was reminded of his great book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, at the 2018 Grant Professionals Association (GPA) annual conference in November. I knew it was time to read it again, so I immediately ordered a paperback copy to highlight with abandon all the wonderful quotes and advice he provides.
Even if you are not a fan of Stephen King’s writing, this book will entertain you with wonderful true stories, remind you about the importance of reading, and teach you how to be a good writer. At the GPA conference, I attended a session titled “STEPHEN KING – National Best Seller, Master of Horror & Grant Writing Tipster? (How Book Club Forced Me to Read My First Book on Writing)” by Amanda Day, a fellow grant professional. Amanda and Kimberly Hays deMuga, another grant professional, recently started a podcast called Fundraising HayDay, which can be found on iTunes here. Whether you’re a seasoned or beginning grant professional, it’s a great podcast to listen to, and Amanda talks about Stephen King’s book in Episode 10 of Season 1.
I am passionate about the importance of reading and believe one can always improve their writing skills. While most grant professionals will not be able to buy a home in the Caribbean no matter how much they read or write, Stephen King has valuable advice for all of us to improve our craft. Here are some favorite quotes from the master of storytelling I hope you can use.
- “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
- “Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open.” Have someone who’s not an expert in the field you are writing about review your writing to ensure you stick to the story.
- “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
- “The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.”
- “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
- “You MUST not come lightly to the blank page.”
- “Optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.” Remember this the next time a proposal is rejected and start again.
- “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
Now get out there, read, and write!
Thank you, Stephen King, for providing all writers a great manual for our craft.