Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: ON WRITING by Stephen King

Whether you like his style of books or not, I don’t think anyone can disagree that Stephen King is a genius.  My reading history with King has been perilous.  As a teen, I read every book he wrote—devoured them like candy—until The Tommyknockers.  I’ve never quite forgiven him for The Tommyknockers.  It killed me to have to put it down, but seriously—250 pages on the inner workings of a battery?  I understand that King was coked out of his mind when he wrote it, and it showed, but his editor should have had a “come to jesus” talk with him at that point.

Okay, I know King has been drug and alcohol free for fifteen years now, but I just wouldn’t let myself go back to him…until On Writing.  Mr. King, I want to publically forgive you for The Tommyknockers and let you know that I’m a believer again.

On Writing is part memoir/part guide for new writers.  As a writer myself, I am fascinated by those who have “made it” in the business.  Since King is one of the most recognizable and prolific authors of our time, there is no greater expert out there to talk on this subject.  In fact, reading the second half of the book was like King having the “come to Jesus” talk with me.  He called me out and kicked my ass on all of the things I’m doing as a writer that I shouldn’t—and he’s 100% right.  I needed this book right at this time.  I am ¾ of the way though my second novel and have completely fallen out of love with it.  Since King wrote this in second person, it felt like he was talking directly to me, calling me out on all my bullshit excuses.  I needed that.

On Writing is not just a dressing down—the story was very inspiring as well.  King has been through a lot of crap over his career, some of his making and he’s honest about that, but he has come through it strong.  Most of all, this book showed me that even successful writers have been through the same self-doubt and aggravations that I go through.  He too had a formidable stack of rejection letters wracked up.  Finishing this book made we want to tackle that manuscript again.  Thank you, Mr. King.

Overall, I give On Writing

Plot – 3 bookmarks (primarily non-fiction, but there is a personal narrative which threads through.)
Practical Application – 5 bookmarks.  (Every writer should read this book—preferably when they are down on themselves.)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Stephen King as himself.  


  1. I'm not generally a fan of Stephen King's run-on sentences, BUT I recognize he's a master. And On Writing was a different breed. My favorite, no-BS book on writing I've read. (Good review!)

  2. I am not a reader of horror so Mr. King and I don't get along on a normal basis, but On Writing was magnificent and one of my very favorite books on the subject.

  3. I had the same experience reading Stephen King -- I bought and read every book through Tommyknockers. (I actually finished it, which is what did me in.) I've had a hit or miss relationship with his books ever since, but I loved On Writing. Both inspiring and full of practical advice. Not too many authors are great at hitting both.