Asmara Malik (TheDoctorReads)'s Reviews > On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing by Stephen King
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it was amazing

Like most readers, once in a while, you come across a style of writing that makes you go, 'Ew, I can write better than that!' and off you go to the heady land of imagination, armed with your SAT certified vocabulary and years of pent up ideas. Writing, you soon discover, is a murky swamp with your muse about as trust-worthy as Gollum, leading you into one pit after another. After one too many of your precious stories drowns in quicksand, you realize that you need a teacher, someone who can help to forge your own lamp out of the darkness.

While there a tonne of professional writing guides out there, getting your lessons directly from a best-selling author has it's own advantage. Enter 'On Writing' by Stephen King, part-memoir, part-instruction manual that deals simultaneously with how a writer is both created by and creator of his or her life.

Starting with recollections from his earliest childhood (C.V.), Mr King takes us on a journey through the events that set him on the path to becoming a novelist. Peppered with professional rejections and personal sorrows, the unglamorous aspects of his life before international fame makes for sobering reading. He narrates the struggles his mother and later, he, faced, the crushing poverty that bound them both and how, through writing, he was able to forge a better life for his family.

That is the one thing, Mr King advocates throughout the book-- being consistent in creating your work. Writing, like any discipline, requires effort, the payback of which can only be measured in small incremental improvement. And easy reading, as Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, is damn hard writing. Good writing can only result from a constant and consistent dedication to improving your craft and one of the best ways to do that is to read-- read a lot: “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Mr King deals candidly with his own history of substance abuse, narrating frankly how in the mistaken belief that his art was somehow fuelled by his addictions he nearly destroyed it. His honesty is compelling, lending credence to his unspoken courage and strength as a human being.

Drawing on his experience as a creative writing teacher, Mr King is wonderfully eloquent in setting out the basic tools a writer needs in his arsenal (or 'Toolbox') and how best to use them. This is the core of the book, where Mr King uses examples from his own work on how best to write, edit, agent hunting and publishing. His advice is practical, without being weighed down by a lot of preachy self-praise, but most of all, he remains immensely readable. Never once are you bored into thinking you're back in a dreaded high-school English class. I loved his particular advice to find a 'Constant Reader', in his case, his wife Tabitha, explaining how a good Constant Reader would not only cut through the crap in your work but also help guide you back, should you lose your way.

Like any good teacher, Mr King isn't content to let you off the hook once the class is over, the book ends with two updated lists of recommended reading which includes books from writers as diverse as Ian McEwan and J. K. Rowling.

Perhaps what remains most relate-able, even likeable, about Mr King's work is his honesty. When a writer chooses to be as truthful as him, damning the consequences, you cannot help but root for him, time and time again. Thank you for the words, Mr King, and the nightmares. They were worth it, every last one.

Favourite Lines:

“You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself."
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Reading Progress

September 1, 2013 – Shelved
July 22, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
July 30, 2016 – Started Reading
August 17, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Zarish (new) - added it

Zarish Fatima this is an excellent review. now i will for sure give this book a try.


message 2: by Lara (new)

Lara Zuberi Beautiful review


Asmara Malik (TheDoctorReads) Thank you so much! :)


message 4: by Naufal Mir (new) - added it

Naufal Mir man every review of yours makes me want to read that book. Why you do this?! :)


Asmara Malik (TheDoctorReads) Hahaha thanks a lot! I was pretty sure no one even read my reviews, this is super motivating :)


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