On Writing by Stephen King

Rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis: Best selling author Stephen King reveals some of his practices on good writing to help aspiring writers develop their toolbox.  He also tells stories of his life and their influence on his development as a writer.


On Writing by Stephen King is a combination memoir and how to writing book. Throughout the book King references many of his life experiences and how they led him to writing or impacted his writing practice. He also provides tips of the trade and a few things he found essential to the growth and development of his writing.
It was the tips that I found most interesting and most insightful into King’s life and writing process. Part of the reason I wanted to read On Writing was to see how King got started and what sort of routine he had for writing. Through anecdotal stories, he maintains his usual conversational tone, write in an easy to read fashion, and had me laughing out loud several times from both his antics and his commentary.
In the book, King takes a whole section to discuss the importance reading has to an author. He says the two most important things you can do to help yourself as a writer are: read all the time and write. While I have always been an active reader, I never listened to audiobooks. King suggested them for car rides. I recently took that suggestion and have been listening to audiobooks in the car and while walking my dogs. I think it is a great way to read some of the classics, which for me are often hard to focus on, plus many classics are in the public domain and free to listen to.
Another great tip from King it to write first with the door closed, then later with the door open. For him, he first opens his door to his “ideal reader” – his wife – and then to other friends. Finding your ideal reader is important to developing a story and to receiving valuable feedback. As the book progresses, he gives more specific tips and examples for the physical art and craft of writing; like: editing, avoiding adverbs, and having too many pronouns. He often tied each suggestion to a story in his life that taught it to him.
Finally, one of the things I found most interesting about On Writing is how it shows King’s writing process in action. The book took him years to write due to other novels, stories, and life interruptions. However, he makes it clear how essential writing is to his daily life, well-being, and happiness. I hope to put some of his suggestions to the test as I continue to develop my own writing.

-M.R. Gavin


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