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Book Review – On Writing by Stephen King

ImageOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is the best book I have read on writing. It covers the questions of new writers and would provide interest to more experienced ones.

I had an idea for a new novel a few years back and researched “How to Write a Novel.” The best advice came from an author and teacher who gave full direction on every part: theme, character development, plotting and more. It was dissected like a scientist. So, I spent many hours creating characters, storyboards and pondering my theme. Well, Stephen King states throw it all away and just start writing. He could not have been more right, at least in my case. The first novel notes are still around, but it was never written. Now, I have over 10,000 words of a new novel, and I feel the passion of what drove me in the first place. This is just one of the priceless gifts that you will receive from Stephen King’s book.

I began to tell others of the amazing guidance and enthusiasm that his book was instilling. They listened and then replied, “Stephen King????” Here I was:  I ran a book club, where many of our reads were literary, I had a degree [very high English marks by the way, degree not there though], and I had never mentioned Stephen King so why now? I had to defend him. I had to say that he is the master at what he does whether you enjoy his work or not, respect his genre or not. Many had never read any Stephen King regardless. So, I would bring up Shawshank Redemption, which then they would reply, “He wrote that?” Yes, he did. Funnily enough, he mentions in his book that others do not remember that anymore either. Mature readers can get caught up with the prestige of the literary world and forget that a good story can provide equal nourishment for the soul.

The book begins with a memoir about Stephen King’s early years and how he became a writer. I enjoyed hearing his story but part way through was wondering, “Well, when are we getting to the writing part?” It is worth the wait and completes it really. His attitude towards the craft stems from his early life. It is a “no sh*t” guide to writing from a “no sh*t” everyday guy. I am a no bullsh*t sort of person as well which has actually put me into trouble more than once.

The writing section is followed by his story of the accident. Yes, the one that almost killed him. The one where we all went, “Holy S**t! Someone just hit Stephen King” or “OOoo, the guy who hit Stephen King, he’s in trouble!” Stephen King is the master of his genre, the master of fear. Read any phobia list, and you can almost name a story of his for each one [well, maybe I am exaggerating a bit here but pretty damn close]. So, that is why when you take out the King of Spook, you are doomed. Stephen King though is just a man. A man with weaknesses and fears just like any other. A man whose nurse will make fun of him in the hospital just like everyone else. He exposes himself and his experience to you.

In the early memoir, he also exposes his previous drug and alcohol problem. He does not glaze over this or  pretty it up either. Substance abuse is the bane of many writers or is it? Creative people I know have always debated about this on whether it is a stereotype or a by-product of the work. At any rate, he shared again.

Lastly, Stephen King ends the book with some editing advice and a list of good reads. Books that will help you study the craft. I have read some so far, and they are worthy reads.

Stephen King began On Writing before his accident and finished it afterwards during his painful recovery. I wonder if his accident was an accident; he stated that he was not sure prior whether he was going to finish the book. He enjoys writing fiction so much more and was struggling during composition. On Writing ended up becoming his path back to being a writer. I think it was fate. I think it was so that you could find your path to becoming one.

P.S. I hope I put enough foul language in to make Stephen King smile.


7 comments on “Book Review – On Writing by Stephen King

  1. czablockis
    July 18, 2012

    Stephen King does know his stuff. I believe whole heartedly in free writing. The first time I started writing, I tried to follow the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing and ended up throwing it aside and wrote what was on my mind. I ended up with 160,000 words, which after editing, became an epic novel series.

  2. alenaslife
    July 18, 2012

    I have heard several recommendations about this book. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. dirtyrottenparenting
    July 18, 2012

    This is one of my favourite books on writing. Good choice!

  4. whimsicallyours
    August 17, 2012

    Thanks for this review, I actually just started reading On Writing a few days ago. It’s great and I love his no bullsh*t approach.

    –Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post How do you know when your MS is ready to query?

  5. whimsicallyours
    August 17, 2012

    Reblogged this on Whimsically Yours and commented:
    I just started reading On Writing, when I finish I’ll definitely post about it but this is a great review. If you are are a writer you MUST/NEED to read his book. King has an amazing no bullsh*t approach to writing and life, something that is said and seen from the first few pages.

    • Pauline Probyn
      August 24, 2012

      Thank you for reblogging! I really enjoyed having another view [King’s] on how to write that embraced more free flowing thought versus formal structure. Some of my writing ideas actually come from dreams that I build around by filling in more background, continuing the storyline, and building up the characters.

  6. Pingback: I, To Commit Murder? « The Wryters' Block

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