Must Read Book: “On Writing” by Stephen King

Ooo. Ahh. Wow. WHAT?!

These were some of the various reactions I had while writing Stephen King’s “On Writing,” a part-memoir and part-writer training piece that extrapolates the different idiosyncrasies that revolve around being a writer.

The book was written about 10 years ago, but that is just a minor detail. King’s lessons and stories still prove wildly beneficial. The entertainment factor has not changed. The very idea of becoming a writer — or, shall I say being a writer — has not quite changed since the art of writing began when the universe was created.

The book, which begins as a memoir and unravels into a magnum opus of critiquing and educating, is formatted very well and pulls the reader in with stories in which they can empathize. There is a portion of the book where King talks about his addictions to alcohol and pharmaceutical pill popping and cocaine, all done in separate occasions or maybe all at once. He even wrote a book once and didn’t remember it. Wild stuff.

Or there’s the story of how King got absolutely fucking wasted on a school trip (when the drinking age was 18 and the suds were a-flowing). He had no other choice beyond skipping the next day’s sightseeing entertainment due to a monstrous hangover. It was a comical story because he ran into one of the chaperones in the lobby while attempting to cure his hangover. Whoops.

The great aspect of this publication is that both parts of the book are essential: the revisited stories and the glorious advice. And boy, is it glorious. King delves into a toolbox complete with his own personal writing rules, such as:

– The 2nd Draft = The 1st Draft minus 10 percent

– Avoid adjectives at all costs! (Especially the forced ones, such as: “That was a great party!” Mike said cheerily. Ew.)

– Make the story move at a good rate.

– The characters should play an integral part in the plot

– Avoid all the unnecessary wordplay. (I think this may be the most important advice of all considering that many writers, whether a freshman in a art history class or a seasoned author who has published 22 books. I immediately understood and empathized with what King described: eliminate the scraps that add nothing to a story. And he even shows you how to do it as if he is a teacher himself, displaying a portion of a work he did and crossing words out and changing the order around. It reminded me of being in high school again.)

This book can be ready by anyone though, so whether you are a writer or are an aspiring writer or just want to read a good story, this will entertain you. It has heart. Real heart. Moments throughout the book made me tear up in happiness, such as when Stephen found out his book, “Carrie,” would result in a check of $400,000 for he and his family (including his novelist wife, Tabitha, and their very young children). Stephen kept asking if he heard the amount correctly, and when he finally realized that all the hard work and determination and trepidation paid off, he slid down the wall of his abode into a type of fetal position. He made it.

That moment maybe more than any other really spoke to me. It made me want to feel what he felt. And whether you are a writer or anything else, there comes a certain point when the universe magically comes together, all the stars align and life hits a monstrous crescendo. Woah, what a feeling! I’ve experienced it before, but never in regards to my writing. And when I realize that, I become aware that I haven’t worked hard enough and haven’t done my due diligence. There are very smart people in this world who never accomplished much due to an increased sense of lethargy and angst, and when I finished reading “On Writing,” it’s like a little voice spoke to me telling me that I can’t just be another name on a list of people who never met their potential.

So, here I am telling all of you that as well. I have discovered some great blogs recently in addition to the handful I peruse on a daily-to-weekly basis, and these welcome additions have opened up my mind even more. My own blog is doing the best it ever has, and that is truly a fulfilling feeling. I always wanted that even though I may not have said it to anyone. Who wants to write only for themselves, especially if someone considers him or herself a writer?

Be strong in your words and your convictions and do what makes you happy. Read and write, a lot. Don’t be the person who wakes up one morning at the somber age of sixty-seven and wonder where all the time went. You will take that feeling with you to the grave and the afterlife, whether you like it or not. And I think you already know that should not be a viable option.

3 thoughts on “Must Read Book: “On Writing” by Stephen King

  1. Pingback: With age comes… | Writing = Passion

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