Review | On Writing by Stephen King

Review | On Writing by Stephen KingDo you want to be a writer?

I’m not asking “do you want to write?”  It’s not the same question.  Rather “do you want to be a writer?”  If so, you could do worse than reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

On Writing is part memoir that provides context for the evolution of an author (a highly successful one, at that).  It is also part instructive guide on how to write well.  This refreshing read forgoes the technical intricacies of stringing words together.  Instead, it gives a much more practical overview of the mental approach necessary to write well; which means, of course, to write honestly.

It is easy to see why King is such a successful author.  His easy style is a friendly read.  Of course, being conversational means that “conversational” words are woven throughout.  And King’s conversational vocabulary can be a bit… salty.  Still, it’s honest and instructive.

One of my favorite parts include his toolbox analogy, where he relates the essential skills of writing to tools, with the most important and commonly used ones in the top drawer, easily accessible.  He manages to touch on all of the critical parts of writing well, and places each one of them within reach of an aspiring author.

An attempt to summarize all of the finer points would not do the book justice.  The fine points are just too numerous.  I’ll just have to pass along my hearty recommendation that, if you want to be a writer, read this book.  You’ll be glad you did.

Parent’s Guide

Sex: Nothing overt.  “Sex” is mentioned a few times, but in a matter-of-fact way in passing; never descriptively.

Violence: Not really.  Although, as a postscript chapter at the end, he does relate a run-in he had with a van in 1999.  By “run-in,” I mean he had one run into him.  While he was walking.  He almost died.

Language: Uhm, yeah.  As mentioned, Stephen King writes “honestly.”  His crudity is not gratuitous, constant, or included to create shock value, but it is there, and notable.  He uses it conversationally.

Drug Use: Stephen King was an active alcoholic who did drugs during a fairly long stretch of his life.  He talks about that, his family’s intervention, his recovery, and how he misses not being able to remember writing some of his favorite parts of books he wrote during that time.  He concludes that section by saying “the idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Book Cover On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Stephen King
Scribner Classics
July 6, 2010

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.

About Lynn

Since he could read, Lynn has enjoyed spending his life reasoning with Aristotle and Plato, traveling the Western frontier with Louis L'Amour, and surviving the French assault at Agincourt with Henry V and William Shakespeare. He has piloted 100 ton war machines across far flung planets, held King Arthur's hand as he passed on, danced among the stars in the fastest ship in the galaxy, and by turns has both slain and befriended dragons.

When not chasing shiny objects, he records his musings on his life's travels at