Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: On Writing

On Writing
Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Scribner, 2000
Source: my local library
Rating 3.5 out of 5

On Writing is part memoir, part writing companion.  Although Stephen King does go into some stylistic writing advice, it's not a manual or a how-to book in any way.  Instead, he tells you his story of writing and how it has worked for him, followed by some very detailed reasons why one should or should not choose certain approaches.  He shares examples of drafts, illustrating the difference between between the good choice and the not so great choice.  Woven through all of this are stories of his life as a writer, from the time he was a young boy obsessed with horror flicks, to the time of the publication.  The last section even describes the accident in which he was very nearly killed and how he was able to recover from it through his writing.

My favorite piece of advice from Stephen King is his idea about writing with the door closed and then the door open.  It's been a long time since I've gotten to the door open part, but that's also because I don't have a writing routine.  I write when I can fit it in--when I don't have grading, my daughter is asleep, there isn't laundry waiting to be done, I have read at least thirty minutes that day (sometimes this is all I get), I have blog posts for the next week finished, and I'm not exhausted.  I felt really guilty when I read this because according to him I should be making it happen.  One day I'll have time.  Until then, I'll squeeze it in when I can.

I did enjoy reading Stephen King's advice on writing and the process, but there were some sections that I did find more tedious and this was closer to the end.  They were just moving so slowly.  So I ended up skimming a few pages here and there, but it was still a good read.  I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys writing and has dreams of one day finding the time to write a book.

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  1. I love this book! It was the first piece of Stephen King's writing that I ever read. He's a wonderful story teller and teacher. I appreciate his honesty about his own shortcomings and demons. He doesn't beat around the bush or try to add a silver lining to it...he's direct and to the point, which is exactly what he's trying to impart on his readers who are looking for writing direction.

  2. Yes! I also liked that it wasn't JUST a book on how to right or JUST a memoir. Both of those are fine, but I really enjoyed having the two woven together. I also really like to feel like I'm friends with an author. This made me think that he and are buddies already. If I ran into the street we could stop and have a conversation and he'd know who I am. And this is all in a totally non creepy way. :)

  3. I appreciate your thoughts on this, because while I think it's an invaluable inspiring and helpful book for a new writer (I use it when I teach creative writing), I did think it 'cheated' a little, with King not following his own advice at times. It almost seems like 2 books to me - one a memoir on writing and the other an editing book in the style of Elmor Leonard. Yours is a fair review. If nothing else - kill your darlings - is some of the best advice for writers taken from this book.

  4. I first encountered ON WRITING in college during writer's workshops. Each one of my professors chose selections for us to read and discuss the first week, before we actually had stories to begin workshopping. I'm not sure it resonated as much then as it does now... Of course, if I had perhaps been a bit more mature to accept some of this advice, I may have benefitted more due to the amount of time I was given in college to write, choreograph, create, read, etc.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.