In the second foreword to Stephen King’s On Writing, he says,” This is a short book because books on writing are filled with bullshit... I figured, the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.” Perhaps the most significant reason to like this book over other writing guides is that it has very less bullshit. How indicative this is of his usual writing style, I cannot say. My husband is the great Stephen King fan, not me. I haven’t read any of his other works; horror just isn’t a genre I’m fond of. However, there’s no denying that Stephen King is a most formidable raconteur. On writing is his homage to his craft.
The book starts with a brief biography of his childhood and early years as a writer upto the publication of Carrie, his first bestseller. While he does write of a difficult childhood and his struggling days, he doesn’t dwell on the pathos unduly and at no point does this turn into a tearjerker.
The second part of the book is all about the art and craft of writing. King introduces his concept of a writer’s toolbox and then deals with each of the tools in detail. There is no esoteric mumbo jumbo here. He deals with absolutely identifiable issues that any writer would be up against like the use of adverbs (“The road to hell is paved with adverbs”) or the need for restraint in writing descriptions. Obviously, there can never be any hard and fast rules to writing, but King offers up his technique as a rough guide to help you along. Although this is primarily aimed at writers of fiction, anyone with the intention of yielding a pen would benefit from this master class.
The last and smallest part of the book talks of his near fatal accident, his long, slow recovery and his return to writing. Again, there isn’t any melodrama here, just the facts and his belief that writing was a crucial part of his recovery process. He also includes a reading list of books which he feels are well written.
This book is a must read for all aspiring writers. Even if you don’t agree with all his dos and donts, you will still take away some fresh perspective on how to approach writing. I must also stress that this book is by no means for writers only. Even those who have no intention of writing anything will enjoy this peep inside the writers mind.
Write about what you know is a recurring mantra in this book and Stephen King proves the rule by writing about what he knows best, writing itself.