Stephen King is quite possibly one of the most famous writers to ever have walked this Earth. Whether you enjoy his work or not, it is undeniable that the influence of his work is great. His stories have sold millions of copies and many are made into successful (and less successful) films. Conclusion, Stephen King knows a bit or two about writing. Luckily for all of us, he is not too shabby to share his knowledge.
The first edition of On Writing was released in 2000. Many quotes taken from this book float around the internet, mainly in relation to writing advice. Until this day, the book is still high on the recommended list for anyone who fancies a career in writing. As I am one of those people, I sat down and read On Writing to see if King could teach me something new.
What is it about?
GoodReads says the following:
“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
If you are expecting a book that gives you the secret to a bestselling novel on a silver-platter, then this book is not for you. In the autobiographical part of the book, King remembers his childhood and teenage years. At times you will wonder what this has to do with anything. After all, you’ve opened this book to learn about writing. Yet all of his memories explain how he got into writing. It tells us that even the greatest among us have fought to climb to the top.
The second part of the book is solely devoted to writing. King teaches us about our toolbox and how we can fill up that toolbox. He teaches us the things that has worked for him, but does mention it won’t work for all. The thing that he teaches us most of all is that you have to sit down and write. King encourages his readers to pick up the pen or open up word and just let the story flow.
Anyone can be a writer, as long as you want it enough
80% of Americans want to write a book. Not that many people ever start one. Of the ones that do, not many actually finishes their books. Mostly people will say that someone else told them they should write. That they have a book in them. After reading On Writing, I realise that this is not true. You have to believe yourself that a story lives inside of you. Don’t wait for the inspiration to come. Go out and find it. And most importantly, don’t write for the money, or to become famous. As King writes:
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
While I don’t think every single advice in this book works for everyone, it was nice to read about King’s journey. Many of his advices made a lot of sense. This book is not a guide per se on how one should write. It is more a motivation for those whose calling it is to write. Those who go everywhere with a notebook and have characters speak to them just as much as their own voices do.
If someone told you that you should write a book, but you don’t feel the passion, don’t read this book. You might get bored along the way. If you can’t imagine a life without jotting words down on paper and creating your own magic, this is a recommended read. If only to make you feel like you can do this as long as you work hard enough. That in itself is worth a lot.