On Writing

Title: On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft
Author: Stephen King
Pub Date: 2002
Pages: 320
Genre: NonFiction, Memoir, Education

I picked up On Writing not because I'm a huge Stephen King fan (I was back in middle school, but have to admit not picking up anything new since the early 90's). No. I grabbed a worn copy of the writing memoir because I constantly see it place out on display at BnN for academic reading lists (whether it is for the high school IB program or junior college). I fail at it miserably, but I do try to stay abreast to what my students will be reading/learning in the future. Plus, I still feel if there is one person who could write a "writing memoir" it would be the King himself.

This will be a relatively short review (damn, adverb. A big no-no for Mr. King) as most with common sense can figure out the story's theme.
On Writing is divided up into two sections (well, sorta three...) The first section is more autobiographical. King shares how his life as a writer was created. Who and what influenced him. In this section he candidly shares his fight with alcoholism and addiction, what it was like to be broke and finally have a story sell, and what made him write such books like Carrie.
The second section is geared more toward the mechanics of writing. What works. What doesn't. Mr. King lists what is needed in your writing toolbox (a handy little way to organize the process and skills). What I really liked about this section is how adamant that a writer needed a room with a closed door. If you truly wish to write, realize that it going to be a lonely place. You must have the willpower to close that door to the living world and enter one that you create. He also speaks about discipline, the importance of setting goals, and most importantly points out that you should not wait for the muse. (He has a rich and funny way of personifying the Muse. If I had my book highlighted I would share. Unfortunately I don't.)

The final section is more of an after thought. Mr. King retells the story of the car accident that nearly killed him. I found this to be rather interesting as well because I was probably the last person on the face of the earth who had very little clue about what happened. I'll admit, I knew he got hit. I knew that he had to go to the hospital and rehab, but I sure as hell didn't realize that he nearly died or had half his body nearly crushed. (You see how most media escapes me!)

The book dragged for me. What should have just taken a day or two to get through (it's not difficult reading) took weeks. I found myself setting it aside and then picking it back up again because I felt guilty. (I feel that way sometimes with my books!) I do believe, however, if I were an aspiring writer, that this little memoir would be write up my alley. So for any of yous that are interested in the writing craft as a career (not a hobby!) I highly recommend.


  1. Actually, while a lot of people find this book useful, as an aspiring writer it really didn't do anything for me. The first section was ridiculously not my type of book, and the writing advice in part 2 was nothing I hadn't heard a million times before. I learned nothing from this book. Maybe if I'd have read it a decade ago? But after years and years of writing, editing, going to critique groups, taking classes, and studying writing craft, this book just didn't do anything at all for me.

    On the other hand, I didn't even know he'd been hit by a car, that's how far out of it *I* am.

  2. I am interested to read this, as I love to read our authors actually practice their craft. He is such a successful author that I suppose you could say he knows his stuff.

  3. The adverbs thing, I don't know... Sure, stuff like "he cried sadly" is most definitely a BIG no no, but I see nothing wrong with adverbs that don't actually state the obvious :P And I think they can be used well - Terry Pratchett for example does an excellent job of using unexpected ones, always with hilarious results.

    Also, I was sitting here going, "Accident? What accident?" :P

  4. Amanda - I'm pretty glad I wasn't the only one who was less than impressed by the book.

    Vivienne - I definitely think that SK knows his stuff. His books and sales prove that, for sure.

    Nymeth - Completely agree! :)


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