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

On Writing by Stephen King
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bookshelves: memoir, nonfiction, writing

Sharing Love for His Craft

I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read a Stephen King novel (maybe because I'm not a horror or paranormal fan, though I adored the movie, The Shawshank Redemption). But I've heard so many recommendations about this book from writers that I wanted to give it a try.

Good writing is a meeting of the minds between the writer and the reader. My favorite advice was about editing. Young Stephen learned volumes from a brief interaction with a local sports reporter:

"When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."

Trying to shorten the manuscript by 10% during the editing process sounds about right.

Stephen encourages vivid descriptions without stilted vocabulary, like his characterization of a girl from his school who inspired Carrie:

She wasn't fat, but her flesh had a loose, pale look, like the undersides of some mushrooms.

Upon reflection, Stephen identified the following themes in his writing: how difficult it is to close Pandora's box once it's open; the question of why, if there is a God, such terrible things happen (that interests me as well); the thin line between reality and fantasy; and the terrible attraction violence sometimes has for fundamentally good people.

I busted out laughing at the pretense of his undergraduate writing class:

One young woman wrote a good deal about the moon and her menstrual cycle; in these poems the moon always appeared as the m'n . She could not explain why this had to be, but we all kind of felt it: the m'n, yeah, dig it, sister.

I'm glad I got around to reading this memoir!
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Quotes Jennifer Liked

Stephen King
“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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

Stephen King
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King
“Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King
“Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King
“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Reading Progress

September 10, 2010 – Shelved
May 9, 2020 – Started Reading
May 16, 2020 –
page 160
50.0% ""The road to hell is paved with adverbs" hehe"
May 31, 2020 – Shelved as: memoir
May 31, 2020 – Shelved as: nonfiction
May 31, 2020 – Shelved as: writing
May 31, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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David Putnam Great review. Great book one of the only ones I've ever read more than two times. :-)


Jennifer Lane Thanks, David! So many good tidbits that I can see why you read it multiple times.


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