Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Writing by Stephen King

From the Amazon media review page:

"Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists."

"King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary model."

I have never been a fan of Stephen King's novels but I loved reading this book : On Writing.

As I mentioned in my recent book review of: Writing Fiction for Dummies, there are several writing guides that I have read over the years that I have found helpful and others, not so much.

In the case of On Writing, not only did I learn (or was reminded of) many helpful writing rules, lessons and tips from one of the best-selling authors in the world; I also enjoyed the captivating story of his life to date. The journey that has taken King from his lowly beginnings to the pinnacle of the writing world with millions of loyal fans worldwide.

Ironically (perhaps) many of the readers who love this book are not among the Stephen King fans who eagerly await the release of his latest novel. As I mentioned above, that would include me. It didn't matter though, this was a page-turner of a different kind.

His bio was fascinating including many things I did not know about his "rags to riches" rise to fame and his personal struggles with addiction and years of publishing rejections before his "big break" with Doubleday and his first published novel in 1974: Carrie.

In the writing guide portion of this book, there were many down- to -earth, easy to implement suggestions such as:  "Read a lot and write a lot", putting the manuscript away for a period of time and then taking it out to with a fresh and renewed perspective, the do's and don'ts of grammar. Some of the basics from Strunk & White's 'Elements of Style' but explained here in a much more accessible way. The importance of creating characters who will remain realistic and engaging  for the entire story. The list goes on and on...

A reference book for all writers: novice or more experienced. And for those who never plan to write anything themselves, it's still a book that I would recommend. If biographies are among your favorite type of books, you won't want to miss this one. It is an inspiring story that will ring true for most people, in particular anyone who has struggled against the odds in their own choices of creative pursuits.

Stephen King proves that it's not about where you are coming from or what you've been dealt with along the way, it just matters that you don't get discouraged. give up or give in. Through addictions, health problems, financial woes, a brush or two with death, and a stack of rejection letters that piled up year after year, the difference was just that. Stephen King was not a quitter and he never gave up.

I'm glad he took the time and had the interest in sharing his lessons on writing and his own personal journey in this book. And I'm glad that I wasn't swayed by my dislike of his novels and decided to read it anyways. A 10 year anniversary edition of On Writing, is now available. Maybe it's time for a re-read!

Overall rating for this book: Very Good. 4 out of 5. 


  1. I read 'On Writing' many years ago and found it to be excellent. A great book for any writer or would-be writer to refer to!

  2. I love Stephen King and he's always been one of my fave authors. I even got a letter back from him years and years ago when I wrote him a fan letter! I've read this book, not because I aspire to be a writer in any way, shape or form, no, I read it simply because Stephen King wrote it! Since I don't aspire to write I read it purely for the autobiography aspect of it and I loved it too!

  3. Hi Geraldine,
    this sounds like a book I want to read.
    Have a good week!

  4. Sounds like a good book. I was a King fan for his first two books but then he got so weird I stopped reading him. Good thing you did this review or I would not have given it a second thought just because he wrote it.

  5. This one is on our bookshelf, too. David agrees that it is a good book. I don't read his stuff, either, but have read most of Tabitha's.

  6. Hi Selma, I agree Sel and what an interesting bio too.

    Hi Cathy, Oh how wonderful, a letter from Stephen King! I'm guessing you still have that one, right? I never liked any of his novels I tried to read (too scarrrry for me!!) but I certainly enjoyed this one.

    Hi Brenda, I think you'd enjoy it. A good week to you as well.

    Hi Teri, This is a totally different "story" no pun intended. I think you'd enjoy this book. If you do, come back and leave a comment with your thoughts on it afterwards, ok!

    Hi SandyL, I have always meant to check out some of his wife's books. Thanks for the reminder Sandy.

    Happy Reading and Writing, G

  7. this is one my favorite books. I don't actually read Kings novels because I don't like horror but this one I have read and loved. I don't think it's particularly for writers but there are some advice which are good to follow. I actually try out his reading list but only manage to read a few of them.

    have a sweet day.

  8. Saw this on your sidebar and had to read your review. Lo and behold, we feel the same way about King's fiction. But I love this book. Great review. :-)


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