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Book Review: On Writing

I’ve never read a novel by Stephen King.  They all sound creepy, and for a gal who could never watch The X-Files because it caused nightmares, creepy novels are not on the to-read list.

But I had heard that King’s autobiography On Writing was a great book for writers, or those wanting to write, or those interested in writing.  When I checked it out of the library, the librarian gushed, “Oh, I LOVE this book.”  So I had good feelings about it.

The first part of the book, called C.V., is autobiography.  King tells stories of his childhood and young adult years, touching on experiences that caused him to be a writer or encouraged and influenced his writing.  This section grabbed my attention in a way that a standard How To Write manual never could have.  You don’t have to be familiar with King’s novels to appreciate and enjoy his stories about being a young writer.

King titled the second section of the book TOOLBOX.  Here he writes about vocabulary, grammar, style, and all the other things you need to use to make your writing good.  Again, this is not manual-like.  With admonitions like “Don’t be a muggle!” and reactions like “Oh, man — who farted, right?” after an example of particularly poor phrasing, I felt like King was speaking directly to me, as if we were friends.

In the third section, titled ON WRITING, King answers all the questions he’s been asked about writing, and all the questions he wishes he’d been asked.  He gives the advice to read a lot and write a lot, and then provides practical advice on what to read, where to write, and how much time to spend on both.  He talks about plot (he doesn’t like it) and dialogue (don’t write it if you’re not good at it) and description (show, don’t tell.)  He discusses how many drafts to write, how many people to ask for their opinions, what to focus on in each draft, and how long to let the work rest between drafts.  He talks about research and rejection letters.  He gives advice on getting published and getting an agent, but adds that if you’re writing only for the money and not because you love it, you’ll probably be a miserable writer — and not a very good one, either.

Even though I am interested in writing nonfiction, King’s explanations of how to write fiction are very helpful.  He gives practical advice.  He makes me think about things that I hadn’t considered before — like setting a word count goal each day and staying in your writing room until you hit it.  He gives a glimpse into the world of publishing and what to expect when you submit your work.

I really appreciated Stephen King’s On Writing for its practicality and humor.

It even made me consider picking up one of his creepy novels.

Score: 10/10

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About Karen Koch

I like the old-fashioned lifestyle. All this new-fangled stuff baffles me sometimes. I cherish living out in the country, raising chickens and rabbits, planting fruit trees, and enjoying a slow life filled with beautiful words and ideas. I don't always achieve a slow life. I teach middle school English and manage a little burgeoning farm with my husband, and somewhere in the midst of that, I try to find time for writing, running, knitting, reading, and playing the ukulele. And sometimes, I actually succeed.

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