“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King (Scribner, 2000)

On Writingstarstarstarstarstar

Stephen King’s On Writing is out, so go get a copy!  Having read past the three-quarter mark already, I can veritably say that this book is a doozy.  First off, this is not an autobiography, even though it is being marketed as one.  Trust me, I have heard from Steve himself (in the book that is) and he most certainly does not want the Constant Reader to think that.

The book is just under three hundred pages long, for the simple reason that King wanted to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, without the boring drivel that so many other authors employ.  In his words: “This is a small book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.”  There are many sections throughout the book, but it can be divided into two main parts.

The first consists of Stephen King’s life, growing up in a poor family, without a father, and with a mother who was always working.  He talks about how he spent most of his early years traveling from state to state; his family struggling to get by.  He graduated from the University of Orono, Maine with a degree in English education, but he couldn’t get a job, so he ended up working in a Laundromat, washing sheets every day.  His first story to generate a substantial income was “The Graveyard Shift.”  Then there was nothing until a publisher picked up Carrie, whereupon he began the journey to success, fame and riches, not to mention being one of the world’s bestsellers.

The second major section of the novel consists of his view on writing: what he believes to be good writing, and what he thinks one should look out for when writing, the pitfalls and hang-ups, as well as his pet peeves.  The reader also learns of how he came up with his ideas that eventually led to the lengthy novels that have given him great success throughout his career.

Now for some secrets:  the main character in Carrie was actually based on two girls Stephen King knew in high school; for the first fifteen years of his career, he was an alcoholic and a cocaine addict; he remembers nothing about writing Cujo; in Misery he is the writer and the number-one fan, Annie Wilkes, is all his problems, including the drugs and alcohol.  This helps to explain the numerous characters in his book who are either raging alcoholics or have been.  It also helps to explain some of the wickedly twisted and fucked up, yet always entertaining, ideas that he has produced throughout the years.

If you’re an aspiring writer, read it.  If you’re a published writer, you should still read it.  If you’re a fan, don’t hesitate!  And if you’re none of the above, still read it because it’s a great book.  On Writing is currently available pretty much everywhere, but the nearest location is your campus bookstore.

The book is filled with pearls of wisdom for everyone; you will not be disappointed.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on October 9th 2000 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.