Wallace Stroby interviewed Stephen King for Writer's Digest magazine in 1991.
Part of the Q & A:
STROBY: C.S. Forester, the British writer, once described his story-developing process as dropping assorted objects into the water of his subconscious and letting them sit there for weeks or months or years. Eventually, he said, he would feel them merge and meld and take some sort of shape until an idea surfaced and he could start writing. How does that process work for you? Is it more subconscious?Also see: Top 10 works of literature: Stephen King.
KING: Yeah, that's the way it works. Except that I have never felt like I was creating anything. Actually, when I feel that I'm creating, I feel that I'm doing bad work. The best work that I've ever done always has a feeling of having been excavated, of already being there. I don't feel like a novelist or a creative writer as much as I feel like an archaeologist who is digging things up and being very careful and brushing them off and looking at the carvings on them.
I don't work from an outline, or anything like that. It's just that these ideas will connect with me on some level. On the "Dark Tower" series, which is a sort of quest cycle, the first one was written when I was 22 and the most recent one was written when I was 42. That's 20 years later and all the connections are still there, they happen effortlessly. All this stuff is there waiting to be developed from the first book. Believe me, I remember writing the first book and I was not planning (sequels). It's just that the proper connections are there, because the story exists. Only sometimes you get a little pot out of the ground, and that's like a short story. Sometimes you get a bigger pot, which is like a novella. Sometimes you get a building, which is like a novel. In the case of "The Dark Tower," it's like excavating this huge fucking buried city that's down there. And I'll never live to do it all. (NOTE: King did complete the seven-book "Dark Tower" saga in 2004.)
The thing is, for me, I never get all that stuff out unbroken. The trick and the game and the fun of it is to see how much of it you can get. Usually you can get quite a lot.
But I love it. I mean, when the stuff just shows up at the right time. You say to yourself: "Well, I know what's gonna happen for the next 30 pages, but after that I'm fucked, I don't know." Then it's like a door opens and somebody ambles in and says: "You called for me." And I say: "I don't remember it, but come on in and help me 'cause this is where you're supposed to be. You fit right in here today. Thank you for coming." And that's it.
And they pay you for that. But it's like what they pay you for is...[read on]