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On Writing by Stephen King

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy... Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”—Stephen King

(5/5⭐️) Straight from the mouth of the great Stephen King, readers are offered a look into the craft of writing. Part memoir and part instructional, King gives sound advice to writers of all levels. His teachings are grounded in his own personal experience. We see many things throughout his life that explain the inspiration behind his success, and where he gets his ideas. This unique blueprint of his past is certain to enlighten and motivate all who pick up this little gem.

What better way to learn about the craft than from one who has mastered it?! There can be no arguing King’s success in the book world. His first hit Carrie continues to thrill audiences with its gritty ideas and timeless prose. After many accomplishments, King gives back to the writing community with his secrets.

While this book is not heavily instructional as writing books tend to be, it delves into a few important aspects of writing, looking at the the “WHY” of it. For an experienced writer, these tips might not be as helpful. But they will be motivating! A book makes a difference when you find yourself changing your habits based on the advice you received. In these terms, I deem “On Writing” a success for my own book career. It might be too early to tell, but certain things King said really put my writing into perspective.

King’s past is unique, as is everyone’s. His love of scary horror films influenced much of his work. His love of writing from a young age kept him going. He submitted short stories to magazines and his mom even paid him a quarter for each one he completed. Writing was a part of nearly all the years of his life. This passion oozed from the pages. You could see it in every bit of advice he offered.

No two writers are the same. It is important to understand that one style might work for one person but not for another. King offers audiences a look at the style that works for him. As an “intuitive writer” he doesn’t adhere to the strict outlining regimen that some authors do. But his techniques work for him, and that’s what matters.

A few of his bits of advice really hit home, and I’ll outline them here:

“...when what you probably should be doing is writing as fast as the Gingerbread Man runs, getting that first draft down on paper...”

—Writing your manuscript behind a closed door. Not sharing it with anyone until it is finished, and even then, letting it sit for 4-6 weeks before you edit and THEN may share it. He offered reasons as to why.

“There are lots of would-be censors out there, and although they may have different agendas, they all want basically the same thing: for you to see the world as they see...or to at least shut up about what you do see that’s different. They are agents of the status quo. Not necessarily bad guys, but dangerous guys if you happen to believe in intellectual freedom.”

—Being truthful in your words. Don’t tone down a character’s speech because it might be harsh or offensive. As an author, it is your responsibility to tell the truth, even if the truth is difficult to tell. Your characters must be real.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

—Be careful about the language and specifically the descriptions. If you do your job well, you don’t need all these -ly adverbs. It bogs the manuscript down.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot... If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that... Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life...”

—King talks about the importance of reading and writing. He mentions that he reads 70-80 books a year as a slow reader. How he sets aside time to write every day. This is something I have now adopted. Hopefully it lasts.

All in all, this was a great read. I’ve read a handful of books on writing over the years, and this is now a favorite next to Francine Prose “Reading Like a Writer” which is my other favorite book on writing. For any writer of any level, I recommend giving this a read. At most, you will find some great advice, at least, some motivation. As far as writing craft books, this one is 5 stars.


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