Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: [email protected]).

I have to say learned a lot of things I didn’t know about Stephen King from “On Writing.” There are detailed anecdotes from his writing and personal life. He also shows the readers of this book that there is one common thing about quite a few of his novels. Have you ever noticed that the main character is often a writer? Interesting.

King tells the reader of “On Writing” how he got started and his journey to publishing his first book. The first part of the book was fascinating. It made me wish that all authors would write a memoir on how they got started. It’s inspiring and it shows you that even the best selling authors got rejections and struggled to make their way into the industry.

He starts to delive into the craft and providing writing tips and advice in the second half of the book. He covers the basics, such as avoid using a passive voice and adverbs, he touches on theme, symbolism and characterization.

The most useful part of his book for me personally was the tidbits on editing. I haven’t read many craft books in regards to editing yet, so the example provided from King’s own work was enlightening.

I liked when he wrote “when you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you re-write, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

He also mentions more than once that the best advice he ever received was that draft 2 is draft 1 – 10%. I wouldn’t live by this formula as the hard fast rule because I’m sure every writer is different in terms of how much, lets call it “fluff”, gets in the first draft, but it just goes to prove the point of how important editing a manuscript is.

I wouldn’t rely on King’s book if you’re very serious about learning how to write a novel. The subtitle “A Memoir of the Craft” is more than fitting and is often not included in many citations I’ve seen of this book. So if you want to learn more about King himself and his journey to publication, this book is for you. If you’re planning on learning more about the craft, I would say you won’t end up taking too many notes while reading this one.

What did you think of “On Writing” if you’vre read it? Why do you think its one of the most popular craft books rather that being seen more as a memoir? Did I miss the big pitcure in my review?

15 thoughts on “Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King”

  1. King’s book was recommended by every writing workshop I took so I finally broke down and purchased it five years ago as I was beginning to write my first novel. I had never read anything by King as his genre didn’t appeal to me. As you say, his bio and particularly the story of how he evolved as a writer are fascinating. I liked the fact that he was up front about saying he would never presume to tell someone HOW to write but rather he would share how he writes and the reader can take from that what they will. I felt he was giving aspiring writers the opportunity to accept their unique abilitiy to tell a story and go for it.

  2. Wow, you got way ahead of me. I’m only a third of the way done! Love the review, though. I’m enjoying the book, but I agree… it feels more like a Stephen King autobiography so far, not so much a craft book. But it does make me want to read more King, so he did something right!

    1. I was sick so I did a lot of reading. I found that the book definitely took a turn around the midway point. IN the second half he talks more about craft. Hope you enjoy it and that my review didn’t spoil anything for you.

  3. Wonderful review Nicole – thank you! I’ve been waiting to read what you thought of this book. Sounds like a really great read with a few great bits but probably not at the top of my list and it sounds like that’s ok. I’m looking forward to it for down the road.

  4. “It made me wish that all authors would write a memoir on how they got started.” I’m so with you on this. I’d want an updated On Writing-like book from some different authors.

  5. One of the best and shortest books on writing I have read, it actually changed the way I did things, I read it some years ago, when I was writing my first novel and got me out of writing long hand into the computer and setting targets, I learnt a lot about targets and setting goals from Mr King and perseverance for sure.
    It doesn’t matter the genre, every writer has been on a journey to get where they are and learned things along the way. I commend him and recommend this book to show us all how discipline, perseverance and belief will win through, often more so than mere talent.

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