Mastodon The Writing Desk: Stephen King: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

15 May 2019

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 many books since then, so it was interesting to see if it was still as good.

It was better.  The 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 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.

Tony Riches


  1. I like the quote, "Writing is a way back to life." I haven't read this book yet. I did just get started with K.M. Weiland's Creating Character Arcs resources.

  2. It's been a while since I've read that. I should read it again, as well. I've picked up a few books for writers since reading On Writing but I didn't enjoy them very much.

  3. It was the first book I read on writing and I was inspired enough to give fiction a try. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  4. I laughed so much while I read this and also highly recommend it. This is one of the best examples of a writing craft book that is entertaining. Great post!

  5. I think many writers find his book to be one of their favorites. I should take the time to read it again too.

  6. I LOVE this book, and am always happy to meet other writers who feel similarly. Thanks for highlighting it here.

  7. I really enjoyed this when I read it. Plus it led me to Elements of Style by Strunk & White.

  8. On Writing is brilliant as a memoir or as a book on writing craft. As an advertisement for his novels? Um, no. It showed me the power of King's writing, and persuaded me I am not his target reader!


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