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

OnwritingReviewing a book on writing…isn’t that like breaking the fourth wall?

But seriously…I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while. As a fan of horror novels, starting with R.L. Stine, working my way into the complex language of H.P. Lovecraft, and dipping my toes into Dean Koontz, I eventually found my way to Stephen King, who is not only an excellent horror writer, but he’s an excellent writer in general.

If Stephen King wrote a romance novel, I’m sure he would write the most interesting romance novel there was, complete with a supernatural twist climax.

This story is supposed to be his memoir of the craft. The book is split into¬†five sections: “C.V.”, in which King highlights events in his life that influenced his writing career; “What Writing Is”, in which King urges the reader to take writing seriously; “Toolbox”, which discusses English mechanics; “On Writing”, in which King details his advice to aspiring writers; and “On Living: A Postscript”, in which King describes his van accident and how it affected his life.

It’s half memoir, half¬†writing workshop. And while King says the story is not autobiographical, it’s hard not to see how the early events in his life paved the way for one of the greatest writers of the 21st century.

However, the real meat and potatoes comes to us in the middle three sections of the novel. We pick up On Writing because we want to learn the ins and outs of the business from the real expert, a man many writers in the horror genre look up to, much like he once did when reading the works of Lovecraft.

King’s advice is blunt, there’s no question about it. He lays out the hard truth about his career in writing, and provides solid advice that nails just how important the basic mechanics of the English language are to telling a good story.

King is also the second person I know who references William Strunk’s The Elements of Style. As a writer, I think I ought to check out this Holy Grail of a style guide.

The final chapter of On Writing appears to have been completed not long after King’s recovery following his near-death experience, where he was struck by a van while out walking. He goes into vivid detail about the traumatic experience, the moment of impact, the pain, and the road to recovery.

King thought his writing career was over after that accident, but the writing bug crept back into his life, and I feel we’re incredibly blessed to have King return to us and the craft.

Part Five of On Writing shows us that life is too short. Like a cold winter’s breath, it can slip away so suddenly.

Cherish every moment, relish in the small details of life. Do what you feel you are best as while you still have time on God’s green earth. This book reminded me of why I’ve wanted to pursue writing – I live to tell stories, and when I eventually die, whenever that may be, I hope that I’ll be remembered for the stories I’ve told.

FINAL SCORE: 4.5 out of 5


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