A Mix of Memoir and Writing Advice from a Master Storyteller
On Writing is my go-to craft book, and I make it a point to return to it every couple of years; every time I do, I discover something new. As my writing progresses, I find new treasures of advice that apply to my current work, and this is one of the magics of this book—you connect with the advice that speaks to your writing level.
With a conversational tone to the book, Stephen King comes across like a folk teller rather than a teacher, with stories so engrossing readers are drawn into the lessons almost by default.
King notes that the job of the writer is to transcribe stories that are begging to be told, and the structure of those stories can be summed up as broken up into three parts—narration, description, & dialogue. Our job as writers is to capture the story, plain and simple, with a few rules and guidelines to develop the best version of that story. I’ve outlined a few of King’s best advice one-liners below:
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s.”
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”
“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring’, the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
There are so many treasures to uncover in this book you need several listens to take it all in; listen with pen and paper nearby to jot down notes. The style of this book is conversational, so it is easy to be drawn into King’s stories. He writes from a perspective of sharing, not preaching, and I think that is what continues to draw me in over and over again. I appreciate the honesty as both a reader and a writer.
If you haven’t read On Writing, it should be the next book on your TBR list, and if you have then I suggest a reread. On Writing will continue to be the book I recommend when asked which craft book influences my work the most.
Shop this title in my curated collection: Caterpillar & Gypsy Moth Press