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On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

January 26, 2008

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Believe it or not, I have never read a book by Stephen King. I feel rather embarrassed to admit it. I know he is a great, American writer, but his books of horror and fantasy just aren’t my choice of a fun read. Movies of his books give me a stomach ache.

So, knowing he is a great writer, regardless of my disinterest in his books, I wanted to read his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft. I am so glad I did. He is a great, American writer, I have found for myself. I can recommend this book to any writer, or any reader.

In On Writing, King states that he believes “stories exist fully formed, like fossils,” and that his role as a writer is “to excavate the fossil” as well as he can. I love this analogy. As a once-hunter-of-fossils, this really speaks to me personally. So now, in my own writing, I picture a trilobite emerging from a piece of limestone that I am chipping at. A fully existing creature that I simply have to release from its captivity. It’s beautiful.

Another point he makes, about his own writing and in his advice to other writers, is that “good stories cannot be called consciously and should not be plotted out beforehand, they are better served by focusing on a single “seed” of a story and letting the story grow itself.” I really like this metaphor too.

This book is a little biography, describing what in his past, King feels helped to build him as a writer, and it is fun to read. Then there is the ‘Toolbox’ followed by ‘On Writing’ and ending with ‘On Living: A Postscript.’ Lots of great advice for a writer.

To sum it up, Abigail Thomas, teacher of creative writing in the New School, New York says,

Stephen King talks about writing in a way that provides, for the novice and for those of us engaged already in the work, such a clear, strong view of what story is and where it comes from that you find yourself catching fire once again with the whole mysterious process. With great generosity, Stephen King opens doors rather than slams them shut. It is possible, he tells us all, you can do this thing. On Writing is one of the most inspirational and useful books about writing I’ve ever read.

That’s what I thought, too, so I bought a copy for my son. I advise anyone interested in writing to read this small book.

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