Book recommendation: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

A selection of books by Stephen King

I know–I should have read On Writing much sooner than I did. I’ve had it sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, and on my to-be-read list for even longer. I’m not entirely sure why I put off reading it, but I wish I hadn’t.

Ask most writers, and they’ll tell you that On Writing is pretty much a must-read for anybody who’s serious about the craft. There’s a reason it has such a high average rating. But, even if you’re not a writer, it’s still a pretty great read.

On Writing is part memoir, part instructional book. When writing it, Stephen King didn’t hesitate to tell us all about his life. From his experiences as a child, to his struggle with alcohol and drugs, to his car accident in 2000, it’s all there. And it’s all framed around some excellent writing advice.

I loved reading the stories from King’s childhood; not only do they show you how he came to be the writer he is, it’s also really interesting to spot some of the elements that eventually made it into his novels. And he’s not afraid to hold back on the humour–I definitely laughed at a few points, and smiled at even more.

As the book goes on, King adds in increasing levels of writing advice. Until, about a third of the way in, we get into the truly instructional part of the novel. But this instruction doesn’t come across as the dry type of writing you’d often find in a textbook. It’s Stephen King, after all. He’s going to throw in some dark humour.

Honestly, the only part that I didn’t find useful was the small section on querying agents. It’s a bit out of date, based on what I’ve learned in my querying research. But then, a book that was written more than a decade ago is bound to have at least some out-of-date information.

Just know that I highlighted a good portion of this book, so that I could easily come back to certain passages later. And I’m the type of reader who hates to leave pencil marks in my books, much less something as permanent as highlighting. If that doesn’t get across the value of On Writing, I don’t know what will.

Goodreads summary

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. 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. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

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