2013 Book #1 – On Writing, by Stephen King

Let’s start this off with irony, shall we?  The first book I read this year is the book that has inspired me to make a resolution to read more books this year.  And so I start a new series here on my blog, both to share the books I read this year and to hold myself accountable for reading.

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I’ve wanted to read On Writing by Stephen King for ages.  Everyone that has ever mentioned this book to me has done so with the highest praise.  The best and most accurate description I’ve heard of this book is that it’s part autobiography and part master class in writing.  Both sections are dazzlingly entertaining.

Stephen King is one of the few authors that I would actually recognize if I saw him on the street.  Probably because he’s funny-looking.  However, I’ve never read anything he’s written.  It’s just not my thing.  Until now.  On Writing not only gave me a wealth of solid writing tips that will improve my craft if I keep up with them (which I plan to), it inspired me to believe that I can do this!  I can become a good writer.  It just takes diligence.

Part of my newfound confidence in my ability to make something of myself in this field comes from hearing the story of how Stephen King, a self-professed average guy who has encountered a lot of challenges and obstacles in his life, made good.  Reading about his childhood, his interest in reading and in writing, was in some ways reading about something foreign to my experience and in other ways like reading the story of my own life.  I think there are some common threads that run through the lives of writers, such as starting to write at an early age without external prompting.

What I really loved about this book though was the simple, practical, easy to follow advice that he gives to improve your writing craft.  That advice?  Write.  A lot.  And read.  A LOT.  He talks about how these two basics, along with knowing the standard rules of grammar and what elements a well-constructed sentence should have, are all you really need to go from being a competent writer to being a good writer.

There is so much pith and marrow in this book that I couldn’t possibly begin to tell you about it without rewriting the entire thing.  If you’re a writer and you haven’t read On Writing yet, you need to go out and get it as soon as possible.  But what if you’re not a writer?  Is it still worth reading?  Absolutely.  Because the entertainment value of the stories he tells about his own life are worth  slogging through a bunch of other info about writing that you might not be interested in.  But then again, it might be cool for a non-writer to get a glimpse into what we all do.

So all that being said, I think I’m going to have to read a Stephen King novel this year.  I’m taking his advice and reading as much as possible.  Without feeling guilty, I might add.  I’m working on shifting my mindset into believing that reading is part of my writing process, not something that takes me away from it.  And although I’m not a horror fan at all, I think I might try to read The Stand.

On Writing also comes with not one but two long reading lists of books Stephen King thinks are worth reading to learn craft.  Ironically enough the book I picked up to read after finishing his book, Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian (yes, the one that the movie was based off of), is on that list.  Stay tuned for my take on the world of Captain Jack Aubrey and his bromance with Dr. Stephen Maturin!

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3 thoughts on “2013 Book #1 – On Writing, by Stephen King

  1. Glad you enjoyed it, Merry. I read On Writing years ago and this post has prompted me dig out my copy and read it again. I’m a fan of many Stephen King books, though unlike die-hard fans I’m okay with saying that some of his work is pretty poor. He has a way of breathing life into characters far better than any writer I’ve read.

    If you’re interested in reading one of his books I recommend the Dark Tower series. The first, The Gunslinger, is pretty short compared to the others, and whilst enjoyable doesn’t do the rest of his epic tale justice. It wasn’t until I read part 2, The Drawing of the Three, that things got very interesting indeed!

    Give them a chance and I’m certain you’ll enjoy them!

  2. On Writing is among the best writing-life books I’ve ever read. I read it twice.

    I think you’ll like The Stand. It really is a fiction masterpiece. And don’t stereotype King as a horror writer – for example, the movies “Stand by Me” and “Shawshank Redemption” are both based on his novellas, which can be read in a fabulous collection called “Different Seasons.” The original stories are called “The Body” and “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and they’re among my all-time favorite fiction.

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