On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
by Stephen King
Available in hardcover or paperback. Pocket, 2002; ISBN: 0743455967 ; 320 pages (including postscripts and appendices).
I am not a fan of Stephen King. In fact, he scares me. This is the only book of his that I’ve read; it made me want to read his others. I have quoted his thoughts and advice on writing more than any other book I’ve read on the craft.
The book is divided into four sections.
C.V. is the autobiographical section (about 100 pages). Short blurbs of memory combine to explain why Mr. King is the way he is and why he writes what he does. It was disturbing, bazaar and sometimes funny. I actually didn’t read the whole section. It was too weird for me. Fans of his books may very much like knowing more about his life. Personally, I’m not that interested.
The Toolbox section (only 30 pages) is a condensed class on writing basics. He briefly, but powerfully touches on the importance of vocabulary, grammar and usage, style, etc. These are items in every writer’s toolbox. If rusty or missing, your work will suffer. Good writers need the right tools.
On Writing (120 pages) is the best collection of advice (that I have found) for new writers. Mr. King is at times crude, but always honest. He expects much; his standards are contagious. He offers quantitative and wise advice. Sandwiched between those helps are philosophies that spur introspection. This, along with the Toolbox, are essential readings for every writer.
The last section, On Living (about 20 pages), is an interesting bookend. It is a window into the current mindset of this writer. After reading the rest of the book, this brings the reader full circle, seeing the crazy childhood, the trials and successes in the middle and finally a solid, contented man at the end. I don’t know … it just makes sense. And it makes me want to read more of his books.
Final Thoughts: If you’re a fan of Stephen King, read the first and last parts. If you’re a writer, skip the first 100 pages and read the rest. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.