Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

Photo: Goodreads

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will start by saying I am not, and I have never been a fan of Stephen King. Not for any other reason than I do not enjoy horror. However, the craft is the craft, and his take on writing was just too appealing to place back on the shelf.

The first one-hundred pages are about how he developed as a writer. This memoir is not a waste of time, and any reviews that suggest otherwise are your C- dreamers. I gained a deeper respect for Mr. King, and his work ethic—which is why he is a success; he simply sacrificed all he could to write.

Like, King, I too read seventy-five plus books a year, and because of this book, I have now spent several weeks waking up at 5:30am to write a specific word count before I do anything else. Not only is this an empowering—I waltz around the house all day feeling accomplished—strategy, but, I am writing. Yes, that’s right, nothing gets in my way. I have this book to thank for the kick-in-the-butt.

I, also, believe his craft-advice for the words on page are well thought out. I am an English major, and his advice pretty much falls on the same lines—cut adverbs, write actively, etcetera. What makes his approach different, is his strategy of writing with the door closed (first draft). Get the story on the page without critics, without advice, without help, without anyone knowing anything—don’t even tell your partner what is on the page. He even shares excerpts of his own crappy first draft writing, and then his revising strategy—second drafts are shown to his most trusted readers, and they can give their thoughts. It is refreshing to see his first draft is just like the rest of ours: blatantly not ready for anyone’s eyes but the writer’s. It turns out, he is just a regular Joe after all; this is wonderful!

King thrashes the ‘literary elite,’ and their postulations of theory and theme, and shares how efficient and clear prose gets the job done. However, King, like me, was too an English major, and, like me, has a deep love for the language; he loves several different genres, and at one-point shares how much he enjoys Harry Potter—bonus points. I don’t share his anti-elite sentiments, but to each-their-own.

What I took from this book? Stephen King is not superman, and neither does the aspiring writer need to be. King makes it clear, writers are made in the trenches, and those who put their nose to the grindstone, and never let anything stop their writing, succeed.

Of course, I disagree with him on his anti-plotting mentality, but, hey, what works for him (writing situationally), and what works for other artists will be different. He understands, and says as much.

It’s a great kick-in-the-ass book for writers. Buy it, read it, love, read it again, and follow his advice.

*P.S. get up at 5:30am and write till you hit your word count. Who cares if it is garbage? Just write. If you want it enough, you will do it!

—W. Alexander

View all my reviews