HomeNon-fictionOn Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King

A review by Nalini Haynes

On Writing is part memoir, part how-to guide for writers, showing Stephen King’s journey from childhood scribbler of stories to teenager developing his writing skills, expanding to a brief journey through his drug-addict years and, eventually, to the car accident that occurred during writing this book.

Recounting his early years, King emphasises the need for parents to support their children’s aspirations while adding a counterpoint that it’s possible to overcome adversity to excel. In spite of King’s humble beginnings, On Writing does not read like inspiration porn, it’s more like a mate coming alongside saying “I did this, so can you – with perseverance.”

Rather than reinventing the wheel, King recommends writers read The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. However, King indulges in some rants such as his loathing of authorial adverbs, which I found quite entertaining. King’s comments on cutting while drafting are pertinent – there are one or two authors I’d like to throw this book at while running in the opposite direction!

Some of King’s anecdotes are fascinating, like how he wrote Misery oblivious to how the central character reflected his personal life at that time.

King’s thoughts about writing, discipline and self-indulgence are essential reading for every aspiring writer. King’s personal story makes On Writing more than a mere ‘writer’s guide’, of which there are many. This is more like an extended interview combined with a masterclass by a renowned author. I highly recommend On Writing as do a number of lecturers teaching RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program.

★★★★★ five out of five stars

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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