Book Review – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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I like reading books about writing but not too many. I don’t want to start getting bogged down in processes and advice and ignoring my writing instincts.

I try to keep books about writing to no more than 3 a year so when I first found out about Stephen King’s On Writing, I knew that was definitely going on my list for the year.

However, I hoped it wouldn’t be a guide on how to become a writer or get published like a lot of other books. I was not disappointed.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing is laid out in 3 parts – a little bit of biography, writing tips, and a life-changing experience.

In part 1, Stephen King talks about how he got into his craft, his family, his struggles and his journey to becoming a renowned writer.

He also talks about how his wife’s belief in him made a huge difference during the tough years. She was and still remains his biggest supporter.

The seriousness of the memoir is sprinkled here and there with humorous tales from childhood to adulthood.

We also get a glimpse of his descent into alcoholism and drugs during which he created some of his greatest work.

Part 2 focuses on writing. I was chuffed to discover a lot of similarities between my writing processes/practices and his but not to worry, I dare not compare myself to Stephen King.

If I did, who would be Wunmi Fani? :).

At the start of the chapter, he recommends Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and refers to it a few times.

I actually have that book on my reading list for this year. In the grammar section, it becomes obvious that Mr. King hates adverbs (words that end in –ly) and I have to agree with him.

Using adverbs can turn a writer into a lazy writer because it prevents you from thinking up a better word.

I’m still guilty of it though. When I write, I religiously hunt down adverbs and replace them with something more appropriate.

I presume this is something every writer tries to eliminate in the second or final draft of a book. 

Mr. King lays out the road to becoming a better writer without mincing words – read a lot and write a lot.

He states, “I like to get 10 pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words.” That’s the target I set for myself in 2020 and I’m already over 40,000 words in.

  • A novel consists of 3 parts (narration, description & dialogue)
  • Writing the first and second draft of a novel
  • Research and where it belongs
  • His views on attending writing classes and seminars
  • He also touches on grammar, passive voice, theme, symbolism, writing tightly, agents, and publishers.

Finally, he advocates writing for you. The expectation of fame and fortune shouldn’t be the reason you write. This was well said.

It would be nice to become a bumpkin billionaire from writing but if I don’t become one, it’s fine.

At the end of the day, I will always have a pen, a sheet of paper, and the crazy lady in the blue tunic in my head.

In Part 3, he wrote about the car accident, which nearly ended his life, the painful road to recovery, and how getting back into writing saved his life.

He describes it in a matter of fact way without complaint or name-calling.

It, Carrie, Cujo, The Shining, Pet Semetary and Misery scared the bejesus out of me and cured any desire I had to read horror books but I have a newfound respect for Stephen King and his skills. 

Memorable Quotes from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Below are my most memorable quotes from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. These quotes really resonated with me:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

“Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.”

“Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.”

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

At 256 pages, it’s a fast and easy read. I rate it 5/5 and I recommend it to new as well as established writers. You can check out the book HERE.

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