Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft
Author:  Stephen King
Publisher:  Scribner (2010) (first published 2000)
291 pages
Genre:  Non-fiction, Writing, Memoir

"What follows is an attempt to put down, briefly and simply, how I came to the craft, what I know about it now, and how it's done.  It's about the day job; it's about the language."

I have only read one Stephen King book in my life and that was just after graduating from high school.  Horror is not a genre that I read.  However, I heard good things about this book and decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed.  

The book is divided into three sections.  The first section is titled,  "C.V." and is King's curriculum vitae.  He explains it as his, "attempt to show how one writer was formed."  The chapter is made up of episodes in his life that involved writing or led him to want to write.  He writes chronologically from his earliest memories to those more recent.  Rather than divide this part into chapters, each memory is numbered and this helps break them up.  One of the things that stood out to me was that Stephen King was always a reader.  Near the end of this first section he is describing the place you read as, "one where you go to receive telepathic messages."  He goes on to say, 

"Not that you have to be there; books are a uniquely portable magic.  I usually listen to one in the car (always unabridged; I think abridged audiobooks are the pits), and carry another wherever I go.  You just never know when you'll want an escape hatch:  mile-long lines at tollbooth plazas, the fifteen minutes you have to spend in the hall of some boring college building waiting for your advisor ... , airport boarding lounges, laundromats on rainy afternoons ..."

The second section is called, "Toolbox".  This is where he gives direction on the writing craft.  This section is also separated by numbers rather than chapters.  He walks the reader through the process of writing in a way that makes it interesting even if you never intend to write anything.  He begins with this:

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.  There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."

The third section is called, "On Living:  A Postscript".  King was hit by a van while walking near his summer house in June of 1999.  He tells that story in section three.  The final section of the book is called, "And Furthermore".  It contains Parts I, II, and III which include;  a short piece of writing in the first draft followed by a revised version of the same piece and two lists of books Stephen King has read in the last several years.

I enjoyed this book and am glad I read it.  King loves what he does and loves stories and that definitely comes through in the book.  I would recommend this book even if you aren't interested in learning to write.  It helped me to understand stories and writing better even as a reader.

A consideration:  the book contains language and vulgarity throughout.  If you are offended by that, you may want to skip this one. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice write up. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and learning all about King. I don't like horror either but was pleasantly surprised to discover some of his psychological thrillers. Duma Key was my very first King book which was a supernatural psychological thriller. Scary yet, gross no.