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ON WRITING By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by stanleyriiks

ON WRITING By Stephen King

An insight into writing from one of the world’s best selling authors? What more could a writer want?

Well, quite a lot actually.

I like Stephen King, I like his work (mostly), and although I don’t know him I hear good things and I respect him as a man. His books are sometimes a little hit and miss, Different Seasons which includes the novella “The Body” is probably my favourite of his books. Rose Madder, which is pretty good up until the ridiculous ending, is my least favourite, and the last book of his I read.

Sometimes the length of King’s books puts me off, but On Writing is fairly brief at just over two hundred pages in hardback.

The first half is a nice and gentle introduction to the Stephen King that many of us are not so familiar with, his poor childhood, his alcoholism, and how he started writing. This memoir is in no way an autobiography, it’s a series of short chapters from King’s life that he wants to share with us and that he believes helped to shape him into the writer he is today. Nice, interesting, but not exactly insightful.

The second part of the book is actually about the process of writing, and there are a couple of hints about how King writes, including his dislike of adverbs and the passive voice, and some tips on revision. This is in no way a manual, but while writing it you are swept away by King’s ability to tell a story, even the story of how he writes. As he says himself he doesn’t have a magic wand he can give to other writers, and a lot of how he writes just comes so naturally that he couldn’t even put it into words. And that’s the main problem with the book. For those seeking guidance there are may be four or five useful tips that can be used and that’s it.

Yes, this is a nice book for Stephen King fans, and despite myself I was swept along for the ride too. But it’s like a rollercoaster, you enjoy it while you’re on there, but as soon as you get off you can’t help thinking: “Is that all there is?” Perhaps other writers will get more out of it. I’m not saying it wasn’t helpful, the tips that are in there are pretty good, although I’m not entirely convinced that not plotting when writing a novel is a good idea. It certainly explains King’s character-driven writing style though.

Writers desperate for some guidance and Stephen King fans will no doubt love this book. King says this isn’t a writer’s manual, and it’s certainly not. It’s a very personal insight into one of the world’s best selling writers.