Friday, May 6, 2011

On Writing by Stephen King

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.


  1. This was a surprise to me when I read it. Very un-King-like, but wonderful in its own way. I agree that it is a must read for writers, but certainly a book for anyone.

    I've joined your great blog and hope you'll connect with me at I would love to see your comments there.

  2. I'm glad you liked my blog. thanks for commenting and following.

  3. I hopped over from a comment you left on my blog (due to an interview with Bex). Thanks for visiting! I'm now following your blog, and I LOVE your style and writing. :-)

    I thoroughly enjoyed King's book! I found it funny and full of encouragement. Which pleasantly suprised me coming from a horror author (I'm not gonna lie). ;-)

    - a girl & her books

  4. I'm not a particular fan of Stephen King--like you, I don't like reading horror--but I have a great deal of respect for him, his craft, and his abilities as a raconteur. I also really, really like that he supports indie bookstores!

  5. +JMJ+

    I hear about this book all the time and do want to read it. But when I heard that King talks about what it was like to write specific books, I decided to read more of his fiction first. But given the way I read, by the time I'm done with what I've subjectively and arbitrarily determined are his major works, I'll be an old lady! LOL!

    I do hope to get to this before I die. Seriously!

  6. @Enbrethiliel lol! Seriously though I haven't read any of his works, this book still worked for me. Largely because he doesn't assume that you've read his previous works. Still, if you've read Carrie and Misery, consider yourself all caught up.

  7. @christine Thanx for the encouragement. On wrting surprised me too. I resisted reading it for so long because of the "horror writer" tag. That'll teach me to be prejudiced.
    @As the Crowe lies and Reads
    It is heartening when popular writers back indie bookstores. We need more of that.

  8. +JMJ+

    I've read Carrie but only watched Misery. I guess that's close enough . . . but yeah, I'll probably read Misery in a couple of months and then hope I feel confident about starting this one. =P

  9. I've never read anything else by King (not a horror fan), but this book is my bible.

  10. Loving this blog, the feel, and the posts. Do pay me a visit, (my blog i mean lol) when you are chanced.... I am an author, and i would love to be interviewed on your blog, and maybe do a guest post...
    now following you