On Writing, Stephen King


picPocket Books, 2002

ISBN 0743455967

This is the book everyone asks if you’ve read when you say that you write for a living.  Embarrassingly, I hadn’t read it.

Now I’ve read it twice in less than two weeks.  And will probably read it many more times.

This book surprised me, amazed me, and kicked my snobby butt for thinking that Stephen King had nothing valuable to say about the art of writing.  Mea culpa, Mr. King, you rock.

I wish I’d have read this when I was 16 and toying with becoming a writer (of course, he hadn’t even written it when I was 16, but anyway…).

When it comes to writing advice, this book is probably the best I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few.  Some of them good.

In the book King begins by talking about how he became a writer, what inspired him, what influenced his style and taste, and the long road to success.  His wife is prominent in the book, as she is his first reader and critic.  King says that she is the person he writes for.

King then goes on to explain his process of writing in the second part of the book.

Unassuming and straightforward, King has no grandiose feelings about who he is or what he does.  At one point he suggests placing your writing desk in the corner, not the center, of your writing room, because writing should not be the center of your life or what you are, writing should be what happens around your life.  I’m sure I’m totally mangling what he said, but the general idea is there.

King is generous in sharing the nuts and bolts of his writing technique, from developing your drafts, to editing, what language to use, dialogue, etc.  This is one of the few writing books that actually talks about how to write.

There are numerous jewels of information that King shares with writers that you can begin to incorporate into your writing immediately.

Finally, it is a great book even for people who do not want to write but just like a good story.  This book is part memoir, and King introduces readers to his family and friends, a colorful cast of characters who lead interesting lives; as well as the situations that shaped his writing, from an overweight babysitter with a gas problem to the accident that almost ended his life in 1999.

If you are a writer, however, and feeling a little blocked, this book is so inspiring that I guarantee the block will have vanished by the time you finish reading.

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