Nikki's Reviews > On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing by Stephen King
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Mar 15, 09

bookshelves: about-writing
Read in March, 2009

I really enjoyed reading Stephen King's book about writing. I've observed several times that I know snobby people who won't touch his stuff: I kind of want to shove this book in their face and tell them that this, this book by this crappy bestselling author? This contains the Ten Commandments of writing. Stuff like kill your darlings (no, really, do) and don't say sugar when you mean shit, and write every day, write all the time. It even suggests a way of getting out of writer's block.

(By snobby people, by the by, I don't mean people who have tried Stephen King and don't like it. That's fair enough, and, I think, as justifiable as my dislike of the Harry Potter books. I'm talking about people who refuse to ever read them, not because they don't like scary books or because they just can't get on with his writing, but just "on principle".)

Two things I really, especially loved about this, though.

1) He is up front and frank about this being just his experience. The book's a conversation with you about writing, and you've got room to disagree. He's just putting his thoughts on the table and saying, hey, if they'll help, I'm really glad.

2) The idea of the Ideal Reader, his being his wife. It reminds me of stuff other writers have suggested (write a book to your favourite author, make your stories love letters to someone, etc) and King writes about it with feeling and also understanding. He doesn't pretend that Ideal Reader won't ever laugh in your face.

So, I think this is definitely a book writers should read. If only to see if they can get their heads out of their asses and listen to all kinds of experience: if they can't, then they've got no business trying to write. It's got good advice, in his opinion and mine, and something obviously works because, hey, bestselling author.

I also think that maybe you should give this to your Ideal Reader to read. Tabitha King sounds like exactly the kind of first reader an author needs.
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Quotes Nikki Liked

Stephen King
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Peribo (new)

Peribo I've enjoyed a film or two based on Stephen King's books, and have tried to read a couple of them, but I can't read his fiction, its too light, just a fast commuter read (if that's your kind of thing). I don't know why you think its snobbish not to like his work, I am sure there are genres of fiction that you find no enjoyment in but wouldn't want anyone to make a value judgement about you based solely on that.


Nikki That's not the same thing at all. You've tried his stuff and don't like it, fair enough. I know some people who refuse to read it just "on principle".

I wouldn't say all of it is a "fast commuter read", anyway. Some of them are very long!


Hollis I'm not sure about Stephen King. To date I have read (lets see) 23 of his books but I still can't decide whether he is a ''great writer'' or merely a popular one. I think he will probably be best remembered for the Dark Tower series. I read a lot of King when I was in my early teens and thought he was amazing. When I returned to his work after a few years I was disappointed. His horror books are all pretty much the same and no book of his that I have read post-16 has struck me particularly as a masterpiece. Unless I have missed out one of his best works somewhere in my reading and only read his average stuff...


Nikki I think he's a decent writer and a popular one. His books keep my interest and while some of them are repetitive, I do like some of the new combinations or new situations that he tries. He's by no means perfect and he should listen to some of his own advice sometimes.


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert What would you recommend to a Stephen King virgin who hasn't got on particularly well with the horror genre (which is why I haven't tried him in the past)?


Nikki Hmm, I think my first one was 'The Stand', which is post-apocalyptic and I guess more science fiction-y than horror. I know I rated it five stars, although I have got more picky about my ratings since then. More recently I liked 'The Running Man' and 'The Long Walk', which are more dystopian than horror. There are horrific/gory/disgusting images in a lot of his work, though.


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert The Running Man comes across merely as a rip off of Logan's Run, so I'll skip that one. Maybe The Stand is what I should go for.


Nikki I haven't read Logan's Run, so I wouldn't know. Out of interest, what are the similarities?


message 9: by Robert (last edited Jan 10, 2010 11:36AM) (new)

Robert I'm not sure if Logan's Run was ever a book or not, but there is a moderately famous film, which is what I was refering to. It's a Utopia/Dystopia (depending on viewpoint, I guess) where compulsory euthanasia occurs at age 30. Everyone lives within a city and no-one is allowed outside. Logan is an agent who's job it is to stop Runners - people who try to flee the city ahead of impending euthanasia. Things get complicated for him when the computer that runs the city selects him for a special mission...I highly recommend the film to all SF fans who haven't seen it.


Nikki It was. And hmm, well, in The Running Man the guy's on the run for a reality tv show type thing (gone mad), and while he's on the run he finds out about a lot of environmental issues and that the government's crooked. It doesn't sound that similar to me, but maybe that's just the summary you've done.


message 11: by Robert (new)

Robert The similarity lies in the Running to escape and the government hiding many facts from the inhabitants.


Nikki The plot of being on the run from something is very, very common, though, and the government hiding things from the people is a staple of dystopias... and the whole motivation for being on the run seems to be different. Plus, if I'm reading what you said rightly, Logan is inside the government ('an agent'), and the lead character of The Running Man is very outside it.


message 13: by Robert (new)

Robert Well, I'm not claiming they are identical as I haven't read The Running Man - it was merely an impression I got.

I guess I would rather read Logan's Run, knowing it was adapted into a very good film - who wrote it?


Nikki William F. Nolan, if I remember rightly.


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