In 2014, I took five writing classes and in all of those classes, Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft came up as a must-read. I've not picked up a King novel since High School and even then, I've only read maybe three of his stories. He's prolific. I've enjoyed some of his non-horror stories that have been adapted for the screen, like The Green Mile and Stand by Me. I've even seen him perform in the literary rock band, The Rock-Bottom Remainders. Check them out! Although, I'm not a huge fan of his books, I do recognize that he is a writer who has built a solid career and certainly someone who would have wisdom to impart on inspiring writers.
PLOT - King divides On Writing into two parts. The first half of the book is dedicated to a series of true-life events that King believes foreshadowed his career in writing or events that shaped the themes that appear in his stories. Even if you're not an aspiring writer or don't give a fig about his writing advice, this first half of the book is highly interesting. If you're a King fan, this is a must read. His stories are so well know, that even the ones that I've not read or seen a film adaptation of, I knew and this made it fascinating to read the inspiration for these stories. I think what King is really trying to drive home here is that stories exist in the every day and to shape, not fight against those themes that keep presenting themselves.
The second part of the book focuses on writing advice, everything from proper grammar to getting a literary agent. King draws on his own experiences, as well as the experiences of his colleagues. He is constantly pointing out that this is just his (one writers) advice on how to do it and that there are plenty of other solutions that have worked for other writers.
LIKE - I liked King's frank advice. One of the biggest things he repeats is the need for writers to be active with both their reading and writing. This sounds obvious, but just having spent a lot of time with other aspiring writers, this does not always seem to be the case. There are readers who want to write and writers who avoid books. I tend to read more than write and King's advice has inspired me to up my game.
He also inspired me to think more about how I can create "my own" space in which to write, a distraction free space. I've not quite found that right spot or the times that I'm most productive. King made me really think about my writing strategy in terms of getting my short stories published and the longer term goal of finding a literary agent. He makes a compelling case for the necessity of a literary agent. King gave me a good kick in the ass towards figuring out my future goals.
I appreciated King's section of editing and how he showed a first draft of his own story and then showed the subsequent edit. King never says that writing is easy or that everyone can do it, but it does give encouragement, especially in showing that he too has and still does have blocks or writing problems. The fix is always hard work.
DISLIKE - Nothing to dislike. I found much to be gained from reading On Writing. It's a book that warrants a slow, thoughtful read and it will be a reference book on my shelf for years to come. It sold me on wanting to read some Stephen King novels! It's not like this book is at all a pitch for his novels, but with all of the references, it put me in the mood.
If there is drawback, it might be that the book is dated, written before this boom in self-publishing and e-readers. I'd love to hear how King's advice might have changed with this new landscape.
RECOMMEND - Yes. On Writing is a wonderful resource for new writers or writers wanting to take steps to get their stories published. The first half of the book is a must for all King fans, regardless of your desire to be a writer.