On Writing is part Stephen King memoir, part instruction manual on how to write.
You are first provided with what King stylizes as his “C.V.” Here, you are sent on a journey to discover Stevie’s origins as a writer – from his first ever bestseller (which he literally printed himself through a printing press at home), to his first major success with Carrie, to his life post-Carrie as he continued writing after that.
It isn’t all glamour, no, not when he talks about the rejection slips that accumulated on the spike in his room, or the poverty his family endured while he and his wife Tabby took on double jobs, or even the stories he wrote about his real life addictions. It’s a very real look at Stephen King and his process to becoming the prolific, well-known author he is today.
Peppered between pages of the autobiography are little gems on writing, such as how you don’t staple a manuscript; that, when you’re an artist, there WILL be people who will accuse you of wasting your talent; and why you should write with the door closed and rewrite with the door opened.
All these pave the way to the second part of the book, wherein he talks about actual pointers and his own preferences for his work. He gets a little more technical and sits down to declare what he thinks works and what doesn’t, which range from what you should have in your writer’s toolbox, to what would make a competent writer into a good writer, to why you should read a lot (King himself says that reads some 70 books a year), to plot vs character vs symbolism, to even getting published. It’s a wealth of information for the amateur, and it wouldn’t be surprising to know that even veteran writers would find a nugget or two of wisdom from this widely published author.
Overall, it’s a great resource for those dabbling (and wanting to dabble) into the art of writing. It’s not a technical manual, nor is it a completely nonfictional book. It’s not even a map showing you the step-by-step on how to achieve success in the writing industry (although you might piece some kind of guide together through King’s story).
It’s simply a book on writing by writer with more than 60 books and several short stories to his name, and that’s that.
“I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”
Review first written April 16, 2019.