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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Wisdom of Stephen King

I've been reading Stephen King's Memoir "On Writing".

The book is divided into three parts. The first is a delightfully candid account of memories from his childhood that influenced his writing and tells of his struggles to make a career of his passion for writing and the resulting triumphs.

The second half is where in his chatty, pull-no-punches way of writing, he shares his thoughts on the craft itself and insights into the importance of a writer's "toolbox". (If you haven't got one yet - get one!)

To close, he shares a touching glimpse into his near-death experience, his struggle to recover and the role his writing played in that process.

A few snippets of Kingly wisdom...

Stephen talks about vocabulary and not forcing it. He warns against using 'big words' just to look smart, saying, "In this case, happily pack what you have without the the slightest bit of guilt and inferiority. As the whore said to the sailor, 'it ain't what you got it's how you use it'." Wise words indeed.

And grammar. He doesn't go into the horrid nitty-gritting of the rudiments of grammar, instead he says it's important to know how grammar works so that we writers can enjoy the "comforting simplicity at its heart, where there need only be nouns, the words that name, and verbs, the words that act."

He talks about the importance of using active rather than passive tense. Why? Because the passive voice is deathly dull! And wittily discusses those demon-like adverbs that like to creep in to our manuscripts like evil weeds, but concedes they are the bane of a writers life and even he finds them sprinkled though his own work. "All I ask is that you do as well as you can, and remember that, while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine."

One of King's golden rules is WRITERS READ! He talks about the importance of reading and what it teaches us about how to write and how not to write. "Read a lot, write a lot" is the King's great commandment.

This is just a small study of what Stephen shares in this book.

His open, tell-it-like-it-is, way of writing really makes you feel as if he's sitting opposite you sharing his insight with a you, a friend who shares his passion for stories. He is witty, honest, swears a bit too, and is totally down to earth. Having read his memoir I really feel like I know the guy. And I like him - though his movies creep me out no-end!

This is a cheeky, touching and inspirational book that made me cringe, laugh out loud and even shed a tear.

I highly recommend it. Five stars from me! *****


  1. What on earth is a writers toolbox, and where do I get one?
    BTW I have been enjoying (as a lurker) your blog for a few weeks now. Love it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the King! (actually I have never read his books cause horror scares the daylights out of me!)

  2. Welcome Michelle...

    What is a writers tool box? You'll have to read the book to find out, but I suspect you already have one. It's more about making sure you have the right tools in it. ;)

    To be honest this is the first of Stephen King's books I've read. I've seen a few of the movies and they freaked me out so much I have avoided picking up any of his books.

    However, I have a friend who tells me they are not all like this. Now that I've read his memoir and seen for myself how well he writes I'm sorely tempted to stick my nose in one and try his books for myself.

    I'll let you know it I ever pluck up the courage to do it.

  3. Great review Ruth. I want to rush out and get a copy. Right now!! I read his books years ago, and although somewhat freaky at times, he really knows his biz. After 25 years I can still visualise many scenes - he writes that well. Go on pluck up the courage and read him. 'Cujo' might be a good start as it's not as horrific as his others.

  4. I, too, love this book! I'm also a fan of many of the Stephen King books in which he writes about writers. I think he really nails the writer personality every time... "The Dark Half" is my favorite of his books so far!

  5. Hi, I like your blog. Stephen King On Writing is very good. He gives you a good talking to about being a writer...Something I find I need occasionally....Story by Robert McKee is another good book...probably a writing craft book most nicked from the library,(I bought my own this year in desperation that I would never see it on the shelf again...)

  6. Thanks for the tip Maureen. I'll have to check out my library to see if they have a copy of STORY.