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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing is Stephen King’s book about his learning and living the craft of writing. It is an enjoyable book. It took me six days to read. He organizes the book in three sections.

The first section is an autobiography. It centers on King’s early exposure to fiction. We learn of his childhood attempts at writing. We learn of his writing for his brother’s newspaper that the published in the basement. We learn he was editor of his high school paper his sophomore year in high school. We learn how he was told to accept a job at the local newspaper by the school faculty after he wrote a satire newsletter about the school faculty. He tells of the nail on his bedroom wall where he placed his rejection slips. He shares how he learned from the rejections. He tells of his early tries to get published. We learn how his teaching high school English and his summer jobs played a role in his breakthrough success with the novel Carrie ($2,500 advance on the hard cover release and $400,000 for the paper back rights), and his later development as an author. King also discusses his problems with drugs and alcohol. He shares how his wife has played a major role in his personal and writing life. From the book you can tell he loves and respects her very much. She plays the key role in his life.

The second section is no-nonsense instruction on writing, from tips on grammar to ideas about developing plot and character. King explains it as a guide for how “a competent writer can become a good one.” He stresses his beliefs that a writer should edit out unnecessary details. He also points words ending in “ly”, adverbs, should be avoided with the use of unnecessary adverbs avoided. We learn how he writes first drafts and second drafts.

The third section is autobiographical. It is discusses the 1999 accident where King was struck by the driver of a van. The van driver was trying to keep his Rottweiler dog was getting into an ice chest of raw meat while not paying attention to his driving. King describes his brush with death. We learn about his painful recovery. He tells of his struggle to start writing again.

I highly recommend purchasing and reading the book.


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