Stephen King ON WRITING – a synopsis

I finally got around to reading ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King’s book that every writer should read. Since he reportedly earned 17 million last year, he must know a few things about writing. Plus there are over 350 million copies of his dozens of books in existence. He has such an easy conversational writing style, and I completely enjoyed the book, written partly while he was recovering from a horrific car accident. I took notes while reading, and thought I’d share them here (in case you don’t have time to read the book):

” …the reader must always be your main concern; without Constant Reader, you are just a voice quacking in the void.” (Constant Reader being the person you imagine being the perfect reader of your book)

“The adverb is not your friend.”

“The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story … to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.”  (Love this advice)

“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” (on using other people’s books as learning tools)

“Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling.”

“Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice. The story which results from it is apt to feel artificial and labored.” (made me think of , and how much I dislike obvious authorial contortions of a story’s events (which don’t feel organic to the story/characters).

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s. … For me, good description usually consists of a few well-chosen details that will stand for everything else.  … it’s as easy to over-describe as to under-describe. Probably easier.”

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.”

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own. I know that sounds a little creepy if you haven’t actually experienced it, but it’s terrific fun when it happens. And it will solve a lot of your problems, believe me.” (this is so true, and so difficult to explain, but wonderful when it happens!)

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like cross the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

Hope you’re filling up on all things creative as we all await spring and vaccinations. Thanks for reading!


3 thoughts on “Stephen King ON WRITING – a synopsis

  1. mirkabreen

    I have read and re-read this book, though to this day I have not read any of King’s novels. (I’ve read a couple of short stories by him.) He writes mostly horror, which I do my best to avoid in literature and in life. But his book on the writing life is a gem of gems.

  2. Hi, Mirka – I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels either, but I remember the film version of Carrie well… I’m with you on avoiding horror, both in reading and life. I don’t read a lot of books on writing, but this is a good one. Meanwhile, I continue with my illustration-learning quest – still fun! Hope we’ll all soon be vaccinated and get to travel again, don’t you?

  3. I also have this book. Haven’t read it in awhile so maybe it’s time. It is filled with lots of wonderful advice. As you said, someone who makes that much writing must know something about writing.

    BTW I like the new look!

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