‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King

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‘There is a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world, ever. Described in the Guardian as ‘the most remarkable storyteller in modern American literature’, Stephen King writes books that draw you in and are impossible to put down.
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near fatal accident in 1999… and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.’

 I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve only ever read one novel by Stephen King. Obviously his reputation as one of the greatest American writers of his generation precedes him and I feel as though I’ve always known who he is, it’s just that I always had him down as a horror writer. And horror isn’t really my thing- it never has been. In fact I used to get nightmares inspired by the films I watched so easily as a child that I decided to just steer clear from the genre entirely. Book, film or other. I just avoided it like the plague. So it wasn’t actually until last year when I met a friend at University who is a huge Stephen King fan that I began to change my preconceived ideas about King.  Sure, he is an author who is well known for writing within the horror genre but his reputation is also of someone who is just a spectacular writer. Someone whose writing you can’t help but love and whose stories you never forget. After reading The Green Mile  last year I can wholeheartedly agree. That incredible novel convinced of King’s brilliance and couldn’t wait to read more of his books. On Writing was suggested to me by my Uni friend as an excellent piece of nonfiction that could really help any aspiring writer.

I can see why she recommended it. I absolutely loved reading this book; the anecdotes about King’s childhood and journey as a writer were fascinating and really brought him to life, not just as some brilliant author with an adorable dog but as a human being who actually struggles with his craft. It is easy to think that truly great authors just sit at their desk and have the words flow through them naturally with little or no effort which, as any struggling writer can assure you, can be a very disheartening image. But to hear that one of the most talented and prolific writers still working today still has to work every bit as hard as he did thirty years ago to write and to make it good was a breath of fresh air for me.

The section on writing within the book where King offers a few basic tips to anyone wishing to make a serious career out of writing was the bit that held the most interest for me. It might seem like basic advice- focus on story, learn the rules of grammar, avoid passive voice and adverbs etc- but actually sometimes all it takes is for someone to point something out to you and you get it. I can’t begin to count the amount of times I’ve reread something I’ve written, have been able to tell it’s not quite right and it’s far too long winded but have been unable to pinpoint exactly what I was doing wrong. Adverbs. Now it’s been highlighted to me, I can see it as clear as day. I really love adverbs. Well, thats something that I can really focus on in the drafting process.

This book was such an enjoyable read, funny and practical but never boring or too textbook-ish. I can tell it’s going to be a manual that I keep going back to whenever I’m working on a project and somethings just not quite right. Thank you Stephen King, for lending your expertise, it’s a fantastic book and I would recommend it to any fans of King or budding writers. You won’t regret it.

5-stars

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