Thursday, April 14, 2011

ON WRITING by Stephen King


The one and only Stephen King offers advice for those who aspire to the profession he loves.


When I first started seriously reading authors' blogs and working on my own book project, I noticed that people recommend this book more than any other writing guide. It is a how-to book, but it's also a memoir about Stephen King's love affair with writing. He talks about the influences and moments in his life that molded him into a prolific storyteller. This short work is full of readable and relevant advice for those who are learning to be writers. 

King describes how he excavates his stories, rather than inventing them. The story is always the most important thing, and he does not usually focus on any themes or symbolism until the second draft. He emphasizes the importance of beta readers and revision, and reminds writers to cut out anything that does not help the story. His useful and often quoted formula is 1st Draft - 10% = 2nd Draft. If you are writing or thinking about writing you must read this book.

King is a master of fiction, and even this non-fiction book has a stylistic flair that makes it engaging as well as useful. He writes with a personable and honest voice, and does not come off as arrogant despite his astronomical success. He talks about his bad ideas just as often as he describes how he came to some of his really good ideas. I have never really felt compelled to write fiction, but when I was about halfway through this book I felt so inspired that I sat down and typed up a 3,000 word beginning to a novel. That is the sort of power that a passionate author can have over a reader.


The very cool website of Stephen King


$12.99 for the Kindle edition


What is the most useful piece of writing advice you have ever received? Can you recommend any other good writing books?


  1. Even though I'm not a writer, I thought this is one of the best books on writing I have ever read. Not only does King gives advice, he is very inspiring.

    The best writing advice I ever got was to read my papers out loud in order to proof them.

  2. I loved King's On Writing! I read a while ago, but it's still very vivid in my memory, it is brilliantly written and very enjoyable read. I loved when he said (when asked how he writes), "one word at a time" :) great book and great review!

  3. +JMJ+

    I've been putting off reading this because I'm not as familiar with King's body of work as I'd like to be, and I doubt I'd have the desired "Oh, so that's why he did that!" response until I read more of his stuff. (Am I wrong, though? Your saying that you typed up 3,000 words toward a full novel after reading this is a seriously impressive recommendation!)

  4. Very good review. I might have to pick this one up as I just started to get back into writing...

  5. Thanks for the review Shannon! I might have to give King's on writing a look-see for writing tips/insight. I would really like to read the beginning of your novel!

  6. Margaret Attwood's Negotiating with the dead is about the writer's craft and like all Attwood's work provides a lot of food for thought

  7. Thanks for your responses and advice everyone!

    Man of la Book, I recently started reading bits of my fledgling travel memoir aloud for people. It is very scary, but also very helpful.

    Evie, I laughed when he said that, too. He really emphasizes that if you want to write you just have to sit down and do it.

    Enbrethiliel, this is actually the first Stephen King book I've ever read (it won't be the last). I bought Salem's Lot a few months ago but just haven't gotten around to it. I knew enough about his work and reputation though, and I don't think it's necessary to know his stuff in order to find the book useful.

    Careful Geoff and Llevinso, you might really want to start banging out fiction after reading this book. We'll see if I can come up with more than 3,000 words in the next few weeks :).

    Thank you for the recommendation Joyce. I'll definitely look into that book.

  8. 1st Draft - 10% = 2nd Draft...

    Maybe this is a good formula for most writers, but I think Stephen King should adjust it a bit for himself....

    1st Draft - 40% = 2nd Draft

    All joking aside, it sounds like a very interesting book.

  9. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan (30 years ago!) until I lost my appetite for scary, creepy books. But I had no idea he had written a book on writing. I'll definitely check it out!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...