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The Shocking Stephen King Quote That Nobody Knows About!

October 29, 2020

When struggling writers need advice about writing, they often turn to the book On Writing by Stephen King. That makes sense. Stephen King is one of the most successful American authors of the last 50 years, and every aspiring writer has heard of Stephen King’s most famous quotes:

“…the road to Hell is paved with adverbs…”

“The scariest moment is just before you start.”

“Kill your darlings.”

A lot of Stephen King’s writing quotes come from On Writing. But here’s a revealing quote from On Writing that I never see mentioned:

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I used to tell interviewers that I wrote every day except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and my birthday. That was a lie. I told them that because if you agree to an interview you have to say something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever (p.153)

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“Half-clever” is okay, but I prefer something truthful. Even though I’m not a fan of outright lying, King’s justification is more interesting than his admission.

If Stephen King was concerned about saying something “half-clever” in an interview, what would he do when he’s writing an entire advice book about writing?

Now I’m wondering how much of his On Writing book is bogus. After all, he had to write something.

Years ago, Stephen King used to do book reviews for a weekly entertainment magazine, and I was pretty sure that he hadn’t read the books he was reviewing. I’m not accusing him of writing fake reviews. I just wondered because I’d read some of the books he reviewed and it seemed like we had read two completely different books.

But if you write reviews for a weekly entertainment magazine, you have to write something.

I guess that’s the best advice you can give to a writer. You have to write something, and it plays better if it’s something at least half-clever.

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Enough about me. What do you think? Does this admission to lying mean that maybe Stephen King has lied about other things? Was Stephen King’s lie at least “half clever”? What do you think about Stephen King’s book On Writing?

5 Comments
  1. As a writer, I am not a fan of absolutes. But I don’t take all of King’s writing advice literally. On Writing contained helpful nuggets every writer can learn from, but, as in all his books, it was clear Stephen King was having some fun with readers.

  2. Hmm. I wonder whether his admission about being unable to remember writing Cujo was true. Always found that hard to believe. It’s one of his best books too! (Not that I’m advocating for cocaine addictions or anything.)

    • That’s funny because I don’t remember anything about a few of Stephen King’s books. I don’t remember anything about Pet Cemetery (except I thought it sucked) and Needful Things (except I think I didn’t finish reading it; it might have been the first King book that I didn’t bother finishing).

  3. Thanks for posting this piece.

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