on writing

Being an all-around wimp when it comes to anything scary, I had never read anything by Stephen King before starting On Writing. And I can’t say for sure that I’ll read anything else; King simply doesn’t write my kind of books. But the honesty and from-the-heartedness with which he wrote this part-memoir, part-instruction manual makes On Writing an apt book for anyone who aspires to write or is otherwise interested in the writing process.

King initially appears to be discussing his life story, but it doesn’t take long to realize he’s discussing his writing story. The majority, if not entirety, of what he shares with his readers is regarding his development as a writer — from a kid who was copying out his comic books in a notebook, to a teenager submitting his short stories to magazines, to a college grad struggling to make a living. (I don’t think it’s too much a spoiler to say, somewhere along the way, he managed to strike it big.)

King doesn’t just talk about his journey to success. He also talks about his struggles as a writer, including personal problems with drugs and alcohol and how they affected his career and as his marriage. His story is an interesting one, surprising at times (though admittedly, never having been a fan, I’m not familiar with his history) and well-told. I probably would have been content if this had been the entire point of the book.

But I found the latter portion of On Writing, sort of a how-to guide for any writer hopefuls out there, to be interesting as well. Of course, it helped that King entirely validated my own writing style. I’m not one to write much fiction, but on the rare occasion I do attempt it, I rarely have any idea where my story and character will go beyond the initial situation. I’ve always wondered if maybe it was this lack of planning, outlining, predrafting that limited my creative output, but King talks a lot about not knowing where his story is going to go until it goes there. This gives me hope for my own prospects as a writer (as well as some frustration, because now I need to figure out what else it is that has stopped me from dreaming up a bestselling novel).

Because I listened to this book on CD, and because it was read by King himself, I came away from the book feeling a little like he and I just shared this pretty cool mentoring experience. Though I do have to say this — I’m not sure if it just came across this way because of the audio version, or if reading it in print would have given me the same feeling, but his incredibly conversational tone (including the amount of profanity most people would only use with people they’re particularly comfortable with) gave me the sense of over familiarity at times.

That slight distraction aside, I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in Stephen King and/or the craft of writing.

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~ by Molly on May 28, 2009.

4 Responses to “on writing”

  1. Just hopped over from J. Kaye’s Book Blog. Nice blog! I, too, loved King’s On Writing and read bits of it every year. I write without a big plan, too. 🙂

  2. Glad to hear King say he doesn’t plan out his writing.

  3. Molly, I did listen to On Writing shortly after this post – I found it to be very interesting. Thanks! I like that S. K. narrates it himself. And now I have a better understanding of where he was coming from when he wrote Misery!

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