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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
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Staff Picks > Staff Picks: On Writing by Stephen King

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message 1: by Lexie (last edited Mar 11, 2013 01:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lexie Robinson Austin (lrobinson) | 83 comments Five out of Five Stars, Adult

"The subtitle to Stephen King's On Writing, his missive on the art and craft that have made him rich and famous, is "A Memoir of the Craft." And that's just what this book is. Beginning with his earliest childhood, when his mother was struggling to raise Stephen and his older brother on her own, King takes readers through his life, culminating with the 1999 tragedy that almost ended it. Interspersed with King's memories are details that highlight his burgeoning career, all of it told in King's uniquely folksy but slightly twisted style."

I’m kind of neutral when it comes to Stephen King’s work. I’ve only really tried to read one of his novels, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger and didn’t even make it a third of the way through. Also, you should know that I can’t remember the last “grown up” nonfiction book I read all the way through. So, not a Stephen King fan, and not a fan of grown up nonfiction.

All that aside, I LOVED Stephen King’s nonfiction/biography “On Writing”.

When you think “Stephen King” (or at least when I do), you think creepy clowns, REDRUM, buckets of pigs blood, and just gross scary stuff in general. This book is 100% different. In fact, I was really startled to find out that Stephen King has quite a sense of humor.

The book starts out in a memoir format with all of the early childhood experiences that helped create the writer he is today. Parts of this book, especially in the early childhood memories- things like using poison ivy as toilet paper (and the aftermath), gross babysitters, and cringe worthy trips to the doctor- made me laugh out loud. It’s like King was saying, “Everyone has a few traumatizing childhood moments. Let them warp you into the writer you were meant to be!”

The second part of the book shifts over to his advice about writing. Things I learned from Stephen King about writing: Adverbs are the enemy of a good book. Premeditated plotting is the enemy of a good book. Corny, unrealistic dialogue is the enemy of a good book. Those are some of his “don’ts”.

As for the “dos”, he’s got some great advice about your writer’s toolbox, and the basic structure of a paragraph. One of my favorite parts is where he discusses the use of profanity, and why you do and don’t use it in your story and how it can be used artfully.

The advice that I found most useful was to let the story grow organically. A story is like a fossil, and we just have to dig it out. Think about your characters. What would they do in that situation? Think about your Ideal Reader. What would make them laugh out loud? It’s like he’s given you a big permission slip to write without worrying about all the fussy stuff your English teacher used to beat you over the head with. It’s really all about giving a voice to your dreams. Honestly, this book made me wish I daydreamed more!

He describes a little about the writing industry, rejections, and agents. I don’t know how useful that advice is, as the book is over 10 years old now. With the internet, I know a lot of those processes have changed. I’d love to see an updated edition with newer technology discussed!

Finally, he ends with a short account about his near fatal car wreck and his hospitalization period afterwards. In a truly sentimental account firmly balanced with humor, he describes the role his wife Tabby played in his rehabilitation and the role writing “On Writing” played in bringing him back to life.

And I’m so glad it did. This was a fabulous read for any fan of Stephen King, any aspiring writer, or anyone who just loves a good book.

For more reviews like this, visit PageTurnersBlog at

message 2: by Jim (last edited Mar 15, 2013 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jkmfilms) | 32 comments Lexie wrote: "I’m kind of neutral when it comes to Stephen King’s work. I’ve only really tried to read one of his novels, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger and didn’t even make it a third of the way through."

Lexie, I really enjoyed this book - though I read it a while ago and don't remember may of the details.

I've only read about a dozen or so books by King, but really like his writing style. If you enjoyed On Writing that much, you might try one of his other books. The only reason I suggest that is that you seemed to really like his writing, and out of all the Stephen King books I've read, The Gunslinger is by far the worst. I guess what I'm trying to say is - just don't judge him by that book.

If you're not a fan of horror, you might try his The Eyes of the Dragon or The Talisman, which he co-wrote with Peter Straub.

Lexie Robinson Austin (lrobinson) | 83 comments Thanks for the recommendations Jim! On Writing definitely made me want to pick up some of his other work. I'll look at the Peter Straub titles and I was also thinking about the Green Mile.

Also- Gunslinger: I read it over 10 years ago in High School because a guy I had a crush on said it was his favorite book. Needless to say, that crush ended quickly!

message 4: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jkmfilms) | 32 comments Wow - no accounting for taste!! :)

Green Mile might be a good one! I didn't think of that - probably because I haven't read it, or seen the movie.

message 5: by Cosmam (new) - added it

Cosmam Green Mile is one of my favorite King books, actually, along with Lisey's Story. Neither are horror, and the former doesn't really even have much in the way of frightful scenes in it. Insomnia would be another recommendation, although this has a little more horror to it.

The Gunslinger is actually not a good book to start with for him, IMO. It was one of his first and it is rather slow. It sets up for a great series, but it's a lot more of an investment.

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