Updated on May 19, 2015
19. ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King
It takes quite a lot for me to not be able to put a book down. I’m pretty good at reading for as long as I have time and then going about my business, not really caring that the characters are mid-conversation or mid-dramatic escape or even mid-death.
Surprising, then, that I found myself polishing off Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ in one afternoon. Admittedly it was a Sunday afternoon, and I had so much other stuff to be doing that it eventually overwhelmed me and I retreated into my bedroom, clutching whatever reading material didn’t feel like work and ignoring my responsibilities for the rest of the day.
When I finally emerged from my denial cocoon, I felt a sense of refreshment that far outweighed the guilt of a wasted afternoon.
Well, no, ‘wasted’ is absolutely the wrong word, because ‘On Writing’ is an intelligent, absorbing and inspiring book. Stephen King writes about his early life, his burgeoning career and some very personal anecdotes concerning his alcoholism. He insists throughout that there is nothing that is meant to be dictatorial here – this is simply the story of how one writer was made, and when he describes his techniques he makes it clear that these are the things that work for him and they will certainly not apply to everyone.
Some of my favourite pieces of advice: don’t stop and try to actively think of more exciting words in your writing. Chances are the ones that come to you first are the most appropriate and direct; trying to be more flamboyant will just distance you from your meaning. Also, once you’ve written a first draft of a story or book, take a break of at least 6 weeks to forget about it. You want to return to it with fresh eyes so you’ll see all those faults you missed the first time around. I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself, rereading my stories and not having the slightest memory of ever having written some parts of them. It’s awesome.
Above all, King’s voice throughout this book is just sensible. I felt like he was sitting in the room with me, telling me frankly about himself and his craft, and steadfastly resisting any urge I might have to turn him into that damaged horror writer or über-celebrity so many people think he is. He’s just a man who writes, and you can too if you want. It’s no big deal.
“And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”
One of my friends is a HUGE Stephen King fan and she’s been telling me for ages that I should read his books. I think I came across this one in a charity shop and really liked the look of it, especially since writers talking about writing gives me a nerdgasm.
Having read this book and discovered how easily King’s writing flows, I’m certainly tempted to read more by him.
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?