Stephen King’s “On Writing” – half self-help, half memoir

It’s Hallowe’en… and what better day to talk about the master of horror, Mr. Stephen King? I mean, c’mon. Right? Totally.

This book is “A Memoir of the Craft”… the Craft being writing. Hence the name… “On Writing“. It’s on… or about… writing. So, half the book is like a self-help book for writers… and the other half is a memoir of Stephen King’s life. The entire book is just plain wonderful.

I’ve read quite a few books about writing because… well, it may be obvious. I write. I have been published… but nothing big. Mostly newspaper articles and a magazine here and there… local stuff. Nothing national or anything. I have a whack of novels started. I may have mentioned that before. The Kindergarten Killer was written during National Novel Writing Month (NANO). Never heard of NANO? Well, lemme tell ya. It happens in November. You must write 50,000 words by month’s end. If you do, you get a certificate. I have one… somewhere. The thing was… I was writing so fast that I lost track of stuff. And I kept killing off characters. Pretty soon, it was a blood bath. I never could get back to it.

My favorite “nearly finished” novel is Tess’ World. She was our 15-year-old cat who passed away two years ago. My husband and I used to joke about a trap door under the bed, where she went when she wanted to be away from the humans. We knew she’d sneak under there, open the trap door — yes, I know she wouldn’t be strong enough, nor does she have the opposable thumbs necessary to grip. Suspend reality for this story, okay? — and step into another world. Ah, sigh. It was a great novel, if you’re into cats and catacombs and sand pits with pendulums that swing above them. When she passed away, I lost the will to finish it. So, it sits on a thumb drive… waiting.

But as usual… I digress.

King’s book is as entertaining as it is helpful. And it isn’t scary at all, unless you count the use of adverbs in your writing. They are the “the road to hell“. However, while I was looking online for links, I ran across a website that says his No-Adverbs rule is outdated. I still try to follow it, though. Once you’ve read (and learned) it, you see adverbs everywhere and won’t use them. I mean… those “ly” words are usally highly unnecessary. (See what I did there? “Highly” is an adverb. I think the point was made with “unnecessary”. You don’t need the “highly”. That’s what he means!)

Most of all, I love how he ties writing with living. Because, as all writers know, to write IS to live… and vice versa. One of my favorite quotes explains it well… and I will end with it: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway


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