Stephen King: On writing

 “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Inspiring is a brilliant way to describe this memoir. As an aspiring author I’ve read a few different books on the subject of the craft and all of them fail miserably in comparison to this book. As Mr King is quoted to say in his memoir of the craft, “There are a lot of books on the subject of the craft, and most I’ve found to be filled with bullshit.” What I like most in this book is that he doesn’t overwhelm you with his knowledge of the craft, whereas most others that I’ve read can overwhelm you within the first chapter alone.

The tips – the advice I’ve received in this book is better than most advice given to me by anyone else, except to read, which is a piece of advice that Stephen also covers in this book. I want to share a few of those tips that I’ve found helpful.

The first that comes to mind is a trick that should be used after the first draft is written. Once you’ve written the first draft of your story, put it in your desk drawer and don’t come back to it for four to six weeks. It’s important to forget about everything to do with the story that you’ve just spent months writing; because when you go in to commence work on your second draft you want to be able to look at your story as if it were a book that you just pulled from the shelf at a book store.

This tip was something that I didn’t fully grasp until one night when I decided to go over Dreamer a first draft to a story that I hadn’t touched in about a year. When I read the first paragraph I was horrified and I had to close the word doc swiftly, because the writing was so fucking awful. You want to be able to be objective when you go over your first draft, so do whatever you must to forget about your book until you feel that you’re ready to read the first draft, be prepared to murder your darlings, with this in mind, I’ll move on to the next tip.

(Murder your darlings.) Even when you think that you’ve written the most brilliant line, or an amazing piece of the main character’s backstory. You must be prepared to press that delete button on your keyboard.  If you’re unable to see where your story might have a chink in its chain, then it’s a good idea to have an IR (Ideal Reader.) Who can point out where your story might be dragging; this usually has to do with over attention to details that aren’t important to the story’s development. Which if you’re not careful might turn the reader off completely. Your IR can help you weed out the unnecessary so that your story can live up to its fullest potential.

Obviously if you’d like to know the rest of his advice you’ll have to pick up your own copy of On Writing, and believe me there’s plenty more, not to mention that Mr King explains these tips in a far more eloquent and better detailed manner, than I can.

Once you get past his childhood memories, the toolbox, and tricks of the trade, there’s the absolutely astonishing story of his near-death encounter with the minivan driver. After reading the details of the accident I don’t even know how he came back from something so traumatic, talk about a living, breathing survivor.

I would recommend this book to all aspiring writers out there, it’s taught me so much, and has given me a major confidence boost in my writing abilities. If you pick up any book on the subject of the craft, let it be without question On Writing.

Thanks Mr King, from a writer who had a lot to learn on the subject.

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6 thoughts on “Stephen King: On writing

    1. Yes it feels more like a trusted friend giving you writing advice, and it indeed is very informative.
      Hmm sounds interesting, although I might wait a bit before picking that series up; I’m toward the tail end of Misery and it’s proving to be a classically horrifying King read, yet difficult to put down.

      Liked by 1 person

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