When I started reading Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, the last thing I expected was the feeling of discovering a kindred spirit friend. Years ago I gave up two things: horror movies and Stephen King novels. After that, I gradually became a less fearful person. I quit being afraid of the dark, afraid of being alone in a house, I quit imagining crazy irrational scenarios.
I’ve given him the official title of “my second to least favorite author.” I’m not sure what made me pull this book off the library shelf and give it a chance. Well, maybe two things.
1.None of the other writing books at the library looked like they were going to suck me in and tell me a story while they taught me important things.
2.Stephen King is a successful writer and a brilliant storyteller. He’s had enough books published that any advice he shares on the subject is probably worth taking.
So I checked it out, took it home and opened it – and then kept reading it like an addict for 4 days.
If you want to be a better writer and can handle some profanity, read this book. His rules for writing are few but well-taught. Read a lot and write a lot. Avoid adverbs and passive voice. Be honest. Write what you know, and write what you love. Write with the door shut; avoid any feedback until you’re ready to revise. Read a lot and write a lot.
If you’re a Stephen King fan, I think you’ll enjoy this book even if you aren’t interested in doing your own writing. In the first section you’ll read his memories of growing up and his story of getting started writing and publishing. In part two, he switches to more of a teaching mode. Even this is like reading a story. He tells about creating some of his stories. Like… his inspiration for Misery came in a dream in an airplane while he was flying to London. An entire book (and movie) were born out of a crazy dream and a few lines he scribbled on a napkin immediately afterwards. I haven’t read most of the books he mentioned, but I still loved reading about their beginnings.
I think I’ll buy this one so I can mark it up and pull it out again.
Some favorite quotes:
“Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
“…to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.”
“Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.”
“if you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.”
“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”