Writing fifty books is a major accomplishment. To write that many bestsellers defies the odds. That this book was finished after a death-defying accident is beyond the imagination. Many like me, who hope one day to release our literary masterpiece, have a profound admiration for the author, Stephen King. His descriptive and engaging books captivated us early, perhaps lending to our hopes that ordinary people can and do succeed in publishing a novel.
This book, On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, is a combination writing guide and auto-biography penned by the master of macabre, the teller of Science Fiction tales, stories of high school romance gone bad, of cars that live and breathe, about dogs who defy their masters, and tales on a myriad of other topics. Where a reader might think the subject matter in a book of this sort might be dry and tedious, Mr. King spins a web of intrigue and mystery within, combining the elements of style with his memories of childhood along with his early experiences at trying to become a published writer.
The tale gives the reader hope that, despite ongoing rejection, if we persist, improve our results and properly tweak our words, we will accomplish that which the aspiring writer seeks. The book answers the questions that some may have wondered: how did Stephen King start out; what inspired him to write his tales; how did he survive the horrific and disabling injuries he sustained when he was broadsided by a van on a highway?
Stephen King's House in Bangor, Maine
The novel answers those questions and gives a great deal more that can be helpful in writing our great American novel. He gives the reader clues about composing, practicing the art, using our worldly experiences in creating fiction, capturing the moment, creating characters, editing our work without remorse and much more in these 291 pages jam packed with good advice, humor and even some cringe worthy stories.
In his usual style, employing descriptive prose, he shares the struggles of growing up poor, of working in dead-end factory type jobs, of sibling rivalry and competition, of mistreatment from caregivers, family members and peers. He describes about learning the perils of plagiarism, of creative buffoonery gone sour, of teacher retaliation, of being the outcast. He shares common experiences and those beyond the everyday variety: recuperation from devastating, bone crushing injury, during which he maintained the work ethic that led to his ultimate success.
He states that “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation,” of “writing to the best of our abilities” and choosing the right tools for the job. He challenges the writer to create a toolbox of talent from which we can draw when needed; when our task becomes difficult, our road veers into wilderness and fog impairs our vision. He suggests that if we wish to become a great writer that we must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. He says, “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
Stephen King’s memoir is memorable, provides useful examples, cautionary admonitions and is pure fun reading. It’s a good story, which he explains is what book buyers are looking to “take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.” He has successfully used every tool in his toolbox in writing this novel.