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

On Writing by Stephen King
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I loved this book on writing. It was part memoir, part how-to. In the memoir King describes his youth and his writing endeavours and the long process of breaking in. The things he occupied himself with in the meantime were interesting: he was a high school English teacher and he wrote erotica for smutty magazines. The how-to section of "On Writing" is not "how to" in the strictest sense. He shares his process, the things that matter to him (and to good writing), and lots of encouragement.

The most surprising thing was his humour. Okay, at this point I have to admit I haven't read any of his books other than this one. (As a borderline HSP [highly sensitive person:], I have shied away from them in case they were "over-stimulating.") He's a funny man. Quite hilarious actually. No titters and chortles, either--I laughed out loud and probably snorted a couple of times too! I didn't imagine that a scary writer would also be a funny writer. Now, having read this book, I trust the guy enough to read one of his novels. I have a confidence that he will balance the scaries with a few belly laughs.

Here are a couple of the nuggets that I highlighted and starred:

"Writing fiction--especially a long work of fiction--can be a difficult, lonely job; it's like crossing the Atlantic in a bathtub. There's plenty of opportunity for self-doubt."

"(It would be wrong) to turn away from what you know and like [to read and write:] in favor of things you believe will impress your friends, relatives and writing colleagues. What's equally wrong is the deliberate turning toward some genre of type of fiction in order to make money. It's morally wonky, for one thing--the job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story's web of lies, not to commit intellectual dishonesty in the hunt for the buck."

"Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading at story at all...Writing is seduction."

He is honest about his struggles, weaknesses and low periods. He writes candidly about his struggles with alcohol and cocaine. I was very interested in the parallel he drew between this period of enslavement to his addiction and the creation of his novel "Misery." He likened the substances' control over him and his craft to the antagonist, psychotic nurse Annie Wilkes who entrapped and kept a writer as her pet. Next he wrote "The Tommyknockers," about aliens who move into their victim's head and knock around and steal their soul. With similar candour he described his painful recovery after being mowed down by a swerving van. The honesty throughout the book was touching.

I recommend this book to emerging writers, and to anyone who's interested in where writers get their ideas and how they do what they do.

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Reading Progress

February 20, 2010 – Shelved
June 13, 2010 – Started Reading
June 17, 2010 – Finished Reading
October 6, 2019 – Shelved as: writing

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