On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a 2000 novel from the prolific American author Stephen King. On Writing is a combination of memoir about him as an author and practical advice on how to be an author yourself. The novel was written during King’s recovery from a car accident in 1999. I wasn’t ever that drawn to King’s horror books but I did work my way through his epic fantasy series The Dark Tower, and it was while reading this series I received On Writing as a Christmas gift. I don’t know if it is the time of year but this is now my third book I have rescued off my forgotten bookshelf and had to give a good dusting down.
On Writing is split into four parts:
Part 1: C.V. – a section looking at events and memories that shaped King not only as an author but as a person.
Part 2: Toolbox – a section on the basic tools you need to be a writer.
Part 3: On Writing – a section of practical advice and tips of how King himself writes and edits his work, these are not rules but things King says help him and hopefully will help you too.
Part 4: On Living: A Postscript – a look at King’s horrific accident and how he recovered physically and mentally from it.
I found this book utterly fascinating, and that is not something I say often about works of non-fiction. As always King is eloquent, descriptive, but also to the point in his writing style. The advice he gives is simple, logical, and could be adapted easily to an individual’s needs. All advice is also backed up with examples from King’s own writing and experiences in the writing industry. This is a top-notch book of advice but that isn’t what made it so great for me. What I really loved was the insight into the life and mind of such a famous author; for one I never knew what a funny guy he is! King is very honest, succinct, and whips out quite a few jokes whilst he describes examples of his own success, failings, and just plain embarrassing moments. I think there are many reasons you might want to read On Writing. If you are an inspiring writer/author there really is some great advice here about actually writing and also about trying to get published. If you are a bit of a fan of King’s work this book is a great insight into the mind of a legend. You may also be a fan of memoirs, in that case this is one fascinating look into the life of an author and a generally interesting human being.
On Writing is so much more than a book of advice and I feel it will appeal to the majority of people just for different reasons. Whilst I was never that drawn to King’s horror books before, after reading this book I think I will need to investigate more of his work, as it appears to be more than just horror.
p.s. have you heard the exciting news? A new Dark Tower novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole is now available to buy!
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (includes links for all instalments of the series)