Book Review: “On Writing”, by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I recently finished reading “On Writing”, by Stephen King. It’s a fun read, and I’d even venture to say there’s plenty to enjoy even if you’re not a writer.

For starters, a large portion of the book is autobiographical. Want to know how he became the writer he is? This book will tell you. It’s hardly a glamorous picture, but one every would-be writer should consider. He also includes a lengthy description of his nearly dying after being hit by a van while out for a walk, which I found fascinating.

But the book is also a valuable tool for writers. King goes into detail about what he believes it takes to be a good writer, and manages to strike an amazing balance between giving enough detail to be educational and useful while remaining pithy and brief. Some of his advice should be taken with a pinch of salt–he’s presenting what works for him as if it’s the way to do things, but I know of many other writers who found considerable success doing just the opposite.

But most of his advice is spot on, and all of it is given with useful and interesting examples, usually from his own writing. Ultimately every writer will have to decide for themselves what advice to take and what to ignore–and I believe King recommends as much–but I feel King makes a fairly good case for each point of advice.

One caveat: This is Stephen King, and if you’re not familiar with his work you may be shocked by his language. He doesn’t hold back in this book, either, and not surprisingly includes a section defending his choice to swear in print. This is one place where he and I will need to agree to disagree.

This book came into my life at a most opportune time. I was seriously considering giving up on writing..again. Far from discouraging me with “I’ll never be as good as him” thinking, this book not only made it seem possible again, but reminded me why I write. I’m still writing, and Mr. King is at least partly responsible for that.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “On Writing”, by Stephen King”

  1. I loved that book. Another writing book I would strongly recommend is “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland.

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