On Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing as a part of my continual “professional development,” training myself to be a better writer. Though King talks about how maligned he is by critics, none of that snobbery was to be found in my creative writing program. He was spoken of with admiration and envy, especially concerning how prolific he is. I read and enjoyed The Shining as an assignment for an MA class, and have seen several of the many movies based on King’s books, along with most Americans. Many of the things he says about story being most important, about letting characters take the lead and direct the story, about sentences and paragraphs, about good reading fueling good writing, were things that I’d heard before in my program, but which are good to remind yourself of every once in a while.

It was gratifying to read King expressing sentiments about good writing that I agree with and that I’ve even expressed here. He says that characters should be described once, and not in meticulous detail; my rant against repeated, overly detailed, and sexualized character descriptions can be found here. He cautions that research shouldn’t overwhelm the story, something that I fear might have happened to the Earth’s Children series.

Only about about a third to a half of the book is about nuts-and-bolts writing advice. A good portion of the first part is a memoir of King’s childhood, and the ending is about the effects of the car accident that nearly killed him. He has some interesting stories to tell about his life, but readers focused primarily on learning craft would be justified in concentrating on the middle section of the volume.

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