• John

Stephen King Has An Ideal Reader

Updated: Oct 25, 2018

Write for a mentor or friend or spouse or teacher, someone you trust and want to please who will be honest with you.




I just finished Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft for the sixth or seventh time. It is a great book, not as amusing as some may think, but highly entertaining and educational. And inspirational. Before this book, I couldn't read a King novel. Now, I've read several, including the stunning 11/22/63. Every writer should own On Writing and read it often.


One of the best lessons King gives is to have what he calls an Ideal Reader in mind as you write, someone who you want to please more than anyone and who will, in return, be honest with you. Do you have a mentor, a friend, a spouse, a teacher, someone who wants to see you do well, someone you would hate to disappoint?


King’s Ideal Reader is his wife and fellow author, Tabitha. “I listen closely to Tabby, because she’s the one I write for, the one I want to wow” King says in On Writing. “Call that one person you write for Ideal Reader. You’ll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you’re still working on it. This is perhaps the best way to make sure you stick to the story.”


My Ideal Reader is in my head, constantly. If I am confident she will like something, I leave it in. If I am pretty sure she will poopoo the idea, I take it out. Handing her a manuscript is always filled with anticipation and dread. If she likes an idea, she says so and I rejoice. If she doesn’t like the idea, she also says so, and gives reasons why it stinks, and I rejoice less enthusiastically. She is usually right, and I certainly stink often enough to trust her judgment.

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