As a fan who grew up reading Stephen King’s stories, I enjoyed this book so much that I read it twice, one right after the other. Let me make it clear, I have never read a book, flipped back to the beginning, and read it all over again. That’s how much I loved this book.
During the first read, I took my time savoring every word, and didn’t take any notes. The second time around, I took 6 pages of single-spaced notes.
“On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft” is not just for writers. It provides interesting back story on King’s life and career as an author. Learning about his challenges as a struggling author was quite refreshing, and a good reminder that we all start somewhere.
When King had his accident in 1999, I was graduating from high school, and remember hearing that he had been hit by a blue van. I thought it was some lunatic who had hit him on purpose, had no idea how badly King was injured, and knew nothing of his lengthy healing process. It was heartbreaking to read about what happened, but it was also eye opening. I saw King’s struggle and triumph, and was inspired.
At 288 pages it’s not a long book. As King says, “Fiction writers, present company included, don’t understand very much about what they do – not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.” I will attempt to omit needles words, leaving the bullshit out of this review.
If you are like me, you have wondered, “Where do good stories come from?”
King says, “Let’s get one thing clear right now shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
King reviews his Toolbox contents, including tips on vocabulary, grammar, and elements of style. I rather enjoyed his opinion on adverbs, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” HAHA! If you have a sense of humor, you will have a few good laughs.
King discusses dialogue, offering tips, and examples on good and bad dialogue. He shares the three parts that every story or novel should contain, and provides a story exercise to help “plotters” to let go of the control. I don’t have mine complete yet, when I do, I will be sharing it. If you do the exercise please let me know, I would love to read it.
One of the most helpful sections was the process of writing first draft, second draft, polish (or third draft), and what an author should be focused on during those drafts. King shares points on how to find an agent, get published, and gives an example of a cover letter to include when submitting your work.
My biggest takeaway: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Find the time to read this book.