On Writing, by Stephen King

I never got in to Stephen King’s books, but he is clearly doing something right. When I saw his book, On Writing, frequently recommended, so I decided to give it a shot. The first thing to know about this book is that it is not primarily a writing guide. Fully half of the book is a memoir of King’s writing career (as well as a discussion of what happened when he got ran over and nearly died). For me, this wasn’t a bad thing. I’ve found there are two kinds of writing books: the instructional and the inspirational. I think both are important and I found the autobiographical section both entertaining and motivating.

For some, the actual writing advice might seem basic. Things like: learn grammar, the adverb is not your friend, prefer, “he said, she said” for speech attribution, and “show, don’t tell” may seem old hat. When I first read this book, the extent of my writing education had been high school English and one course in university. So, I knew nothing, and the topics weren’t basic for me. He has his own tips on storytelling, revising, and process, but don’t expect any help with plotting. King is a pantser through and through and thinks that outlining stifles creativity.

To sum up, if you’ve taken a lot of instruction on writing, you may not learn much. Regardless, the book is an enjoyable glimpse into a great author and encouraged me to keep going.


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