Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

It’s the vibrancy of his writing; it shines through everything he does.  Stephen King is exceptionally well-qualified to write a book on writing.  This one starts with an autobiography that uses all his skills in imagery and storytelling.  Who knew how much excitement could be squeezed out of some of the mundane and god-awful jobs he had, how much imagery could be extracted from his family’s breadline existence before Carrie hit the jackpot? Stephen does.  You and I would probably think our lives were too boring.

His toolbox of writing skills is another great image.  Others have written or blogged the same writing tips, but Stephen taught creative writing for a living, before Carrie, and he really does know what he’s talking about.  What I gained most from his explanation was permission not to plot my novels.  The story evolves from the situation, from what the characters do.  And I thought I was a little bit crazy to admit that the story writes itself because that is what my characters would do or say.  I seem to be on the right track after all.  Now to use these other tools: ditch the adverb, let the writing explain for you, or let the reader imagine from the words. Pace and theme. Practise, practise, practise.  Read, read, read.  I realise I have already done a lot of practising.  I’ve been writing for readers for over thirty years.  Sometimes I was even praised for clarity (don’t write in the passive!).  It was non-fiction, but the same toolkit applies. Write for myself, then rewrite it for you. Drop ten percent of the words. It sounds good to me.  I was on the right lines with The Way West – but maybe I shouldn’t have given you the first draft!

I must write more.  You and I should read more. And even if you don’t want to read about writing, you should read about Stephen’s life and the inspirations for his novels.

Thank you, Stephen.

On Writing by Stephen King

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