25 September 2012

Book Review: Stephen King: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is a useful read for anyone who writes – or would like to.  I grew up on Stephen King’s thrillers without really knowing anything about the man who wrote them.  I read ‘On Writing’ when it was first published but have written several books since then, so it was interesting to see if it was still as good.

It was better.  Ten years have done nothing to diminish the power of the story telling that runs through this book.  There are also some great quotes that passed me by on the original reading (or perhaps slipped into my subconscious)  such as ‘the editor is always right’ and ‘2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%.’  It’s easy to see how King has drawn on his childhood experiences in character development.  Growing up in poverty was an adventure - and no TV seems to have been a distinct advantage.  Undaunted by his growing pile of rejection slips, Stephen King just knew he was meant to write and nothing was going to stop him.

I really liked his description of the moment he had his first big advance  (for Carrie).  The early draft had been rescued from the waste bin by his wife. (She smoothed out all the crumpled balls of paper and said she wanted to hear the rest of the story.  The film version made $33.8 million in the U.S. alone).

Although there are plenty of useful tips for writers throughout, the most thought provoking part of this book is the final section, ‘On Living: A Postscript.’  King explains, ‘Writing is not life, but I think that it can be a way back to life.  That was something I found out in the summer of 1999, when a man driving a blue van almost killed me.’  You have to read it.


  1. Absolutely agree - this is a MUST read for every writer. Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and I love these quotes: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” and “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

  2. I read this book when I was first thinking about doing writing as a career, and it may have been one of the smartest things I ever did because he gives so much permission in that book. After I read it, it was like, "Oh, I'm okay to do this. This can be good." and went from there. I still think about it often.


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