On Writing by Stephen King My goodreads review
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked up this book on a whim from Amazon, while searching for some books on Writing. It comes pretty highly recommended from those who have read it. I have to admit I really only read 1/3 of it but I will read the rest.
The first third is basically King’s autobiography– events in his life that have made him who he is. I enjoyed the first ten pages but I am a ‘get tot the point’ kind of girl, so I skipped to the second part, which was most enjoyable.
Part 2, On Writing, was basically King’s best advice to writers. In summation, here’s pretty much what I picked up:
1. Read a lot. Read, read, read, read. Turn off the TV, remove all distractions, read because you enjoy reading.
2. Write. Write because you want to write, because it’s crawling to get out of you. Write like it’s your job. Set a goal to write daily (1000 words at first, then 2000-3000) if you can do it. Don’t leave your ‘spot’ until you’re done writing.
3. Don’t do all the cliche things writers supposedly do, i.e. write for money, or ‘plot’ your story.
4. Don’t assume that you control the story– the story controls you. Let it tell itself, don’t try to push it in any direction.
5. Remove unnecessary words. Always, always, always, use fewer words whenever possible. In descriptions, in narration, in character, in dialogue– delete the uncessesary
6. On the other hand, don’t tell, show. Don’t tell me that someone is uneducated. Show me with crafty use of dialect in conversation. Don’t tell me someone is tired, overworked, frustrated– SHOW the reader.
7. Create an IR- an Ideal Reader. Decide what your Ideal Reader would want to see and write to them.
8. Never write because it seems like a job. The hardest part of life should be when you’re purposely not writing.
9. From time to time, read bad prose. It will teach you what not to do!
10. (I’ve heard this a lot and have only seen it done really well a few times) Don’t use flashbacks. Talk about what’s GOING to happen and not what already has.
The last third of the book is talking about his 1999 accident in which he nearly died. After which he decided to finish On Writing and get back to the business of writing great fiction. It ends with an example of a piece of a chapter that he had edited and polished and allowed readers to see the transformation from an ‘okay’ piece to something that he’d call ‘good’.
I liked it, what I read. As time allows I’ll go back and read the history– it just didn’t hold my attention, much.