On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

category: Book Reviews
by Alexis Leon

This is a book that talks about the craft of writing from a master craftsman who has written more than 50 bestselling, novels. He has also written many novellas, short stories, essays, and articles.

In this book King describes his life, his writing and how to improve both. In King’s case, the writing career and the personal life are tightly intertwined, which makes reading more interesting as the book is replete with personal details and anecdotes as it is with knowledge and wisdom that one gains through extensive practice of one’s craft. King’s passion for life and writing shines through each and every page of the book.

The book is divided into 5 sections—C.V., What Writing Is, Toolbox, On Writing, and On Living: A Postscript. It also has two appendices—Door Shut, Door Open (an example on editing and rewriting) and A Booklist (a list of books recommended by the author).

The fist section—C.V.—contains King’s childhood memories and his growth as a writer from a novice teenage writer to a novelist while struggling to make a living. It contains glimpses and snapshots of King’s childhood, teenage, and youth. King describes how, his mother, brother and he struggled to meet the ends with his mom’s paycheck and how he became interested in writing and what sort of writing he did during his childhood, and teenage and how it influenced him. It describes, when and how King met his future wife and how they fell in love and are still in love. The section ends when King’s writing career is poised to take off—he has published a few novels, had become a drug addict and got out of addiction and has realized that “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way round.”

In the second section—What Writing Is—King tells you that it is telepathy. He then goes on to explain his theory. In the section named ‘Toolbox,’ King uses the analogy of a toolbox and its contents to explain the skills needed for a writer. The cardinal principal is that the more one practices the better his writing becomes. To quote the author, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” King’s toolbox for writers contains tools like vocabulary, grammar, hard work, and so on. He gives some general rules about his likes and dislikes, what is good and what is not (avoid passive voice, eliminate the use of adverbs, etc.), but points the readers to Elements of Style by Strunk & White for more on grammar and usage.

The fourth section titled ‘On Writing’ is the heart of the book. This is where King explains the intricacies of writing—writing fiction. Readers get advise on how to create an environment that promotes writing, how to get ideas for writing, how to begin the story, how to develop the characters, how much details is required, why it’s important to tell the truth, how to prevent writer’s block, how to edit and rewrite, how to find a select group of reviewers, how to handle criticism and so on. It also has a section on literary agents and how to find them. This section, like all sections of the book, is full of anecdotes, real world examples, and experiences.

The final section (On Living: A Postscript) is about his accident that nearly killed him in 1999. He was hit by a van during his morning walk. He had chipped his spine in several places, had multiple fractures on both legs and hip and almost bled to death. He survived and slowly got back to his life and completed the book—On Writing—which he had just started before the accident.

According to King, “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

This is one of the best books on writing you will ever find. It teaches you a lot of things not only about writing but also about life. King never assumes the role of a teacher; he just tells his story and shares his impressions and his opinions. But in that process, he imparts a lot of knowledge and wisdom to the reader. This book must be on the desktop of every writer—novice and accomplished, beginner and expert. When you are stuck, when you need inspiration or motivation, read this book and you will find what you need. I recommend this book to all writers.

Book Details:

Amazon.comYou can order online at Amazon.

Copyright © Braintree Books. Reproduced with permission.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Amita | 29 October 2007, 13:31

    This book is not very useful for nonfiction writers. I tried to read it, but a lot of things that is not related to writing.

  2. Alexis Leon | 29 October 2007, 13:36

    Amita: I think the book is useful for all writers. If you read it completely, then you will get valuable insight on how to create an environment for writing, how to be more productive, and so on…