On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On WritingOn Writing by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephen King starts On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft with snapshots of his life growing up and how it related to making him the writer he is today. On Writing is not told as your typical How-To book, it’s not full of exercises or speech on how your dream of becoming a writer will happen with ease. Stephen tells a story about writing and what it takes to become a writer. He explains what skills you will need to have in your “tool box” and gives you ways to get and ways sharpen those tools to give you the best possible chance to become a good writer. He also gives examples on how to get an agent and how to get your work published. One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was the section on editing your work and improving the flow of the story. His most important advice in the book is that if you want to be a good writer “YOU MUST READ A LOT AND YOU MUST WRITE A LOT!”

By the time I got done reading this book I had a real sense of how much work and dedication it takes to become a writer. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to become a writer.

I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit this, but this is the first book I have read by Stephen King, although, I have enjoyed many of the movies that have been based on his books. However, I am confident that by the end of the year On Writing will not be the only book I have read by Mr. King.

Personally I have never had a desire to become a writer though I have taken a couple writing classes (for fun) and I also participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2012 (and succeeded in writing a book in the month of November). NaNo was also something I did for fun, though it was less fun but more satisfying than I thought it would be. NaNo is something else I would recommend to everyone, wannabe writer or not.

After reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft I have a realistic view of what it takes to become a writer (if I wanted to). So I give a tip of my hat to Stephen and to all the other writers out there that write the books that transports me to all those wonderful (and horrible) places.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by A Voice on February 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I’m of the belief that reading a lot and writing a lot are not, in and of themselves, the most important part of being a good writer.

    The first issue isn’t one of balance, it’s one of life. Good writers should be able to write things that, no matter the setting or genre, seem real to the attentive reader. They must have or observe experiences in some real way and be able to translate that into their work as only writers can. If a writer spends a lot of time both reading and writing they are cutting life out of the equation and that’s just not responsible. Of course, one may contend that what I’m talking about is called ‘research’ and there’s a lot of reading in research, but to that I would contend that it isn’t what Mr. King and other writers talk about when they say that aspiring writers should read and write a lot.

    The second issue is one of style. I don’t think that there are an infinite set of styles but I do think that good writers will be able to develop their own voice, even if there are strong similarities to other writers. If one reads and writes a lot, if that is the most important focus, this totally understandable influence is much more likely to turn into mimicry.

    There are more counter-points I can make but I think that those two are important counter-points and I can leave it at that.

    What do I think makes a good writer? Here are three things off the top of my head.

    First and foremost, a good writer must have the natural talent and the ability to hone that talent with experience and criticism. Sure, writing must be practised and that goes without saying. But what if you practise and you keep practising the same bad habits? What if you can’t see these things for yourself or are too tender to take calm criticism from someone reading for you? I think that good writers have these abilities because they have the talent, but having the talent is only part of it.

    Second, good writers must have some story or other to tell. No matter how good you are at the structuring and writing part, you need to have a story (hopefully more than one!) and having stories comes from having experiences. You can get inspired from a book, a video game, an event that happened in your life, a music video, whatever there is out there. Writers have to be open to these things and they have to have something to say. This may seem very obvious, but I don’t recall seeing this mentioned by writers when they give advice on writing.

    Third, good writers shouldn’t worry about getting published. Seriously. A good writer may have a fantastically compelling story but one that is considered a bit too niche to warrant paying for publishing (even as an e-book). Measuring real success by publishing contracts, books sold and money made can only be real success if that was the sort of thing that you, as a writer, were aiming at as success. There is a lot of dreck that gets published, A LOT of dreck, and one shouldn’t take publication as an indication for having made it as a writer or even being considered a writer. If someone you don’t know contacts you, unprovoked, and begins to talk with you about your book, about how good it was, how much it meant to them, or a particular encounter on page 46…well, to me that is success.

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  2. We dropped by! Thank you for having us 🙂 May we drop a postcard for your site?
    http://flatlinerbooks.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-wanna-go/

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