Because I am hip to the groove and only read the latest, trendiest and hottest of hot reads, I’m reviewing a book that Stephen King first had published in 2000.
But don’t let that date fool you. It’s a modern classic recommended by writers everywhere. Since I am finally admitting to myself that I am – gasp – a writer, I thought it was time I read it.
Here’s what I thought. Prepare yourself for a post full of gushing from a Stephen King fangirl.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft / Stephen King
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2000 – this edition printed 2012)
On Writing is part memoir, part reflection on writing techniques and approaches, and all brilliant.
When I read a book that might become a book review at some stage, I dog-ear pages with quotes that stand out to me. Which means I bestow upon this book the highest honour: a 16-dog-ear salute.
To be honest, there could have been plenty more. But before I started reading it, I had a little pep talk with myself. Come on, Em. You’re going to love this book. You can’t dog-ear everything that’s half good. Save it for the tips that zing through you. Save it for the fistpump moments.
If I’d dog-eared every page I wanted to, the book would have become an ode to origami instead of an ode to writing.
King’s story is enthralling. If you’ve ever wondered if writers are born or created, wonder no more. This one is born. King’s early days of pitching, pitching, pitching, the accumulated rejection slips, the sheer determination: he was never going to be anything but a writer.
Standout lines (and believe me, they were hard to whittle down):
- We could hear the pause after each rasping breath she drew growing longer and longer. Finally there were no more breaths and it was all pause.
- Your job isn’t to find (story) ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
- One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe too ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes.
- It’s as easy to overdescribe as underdescribe. Probably easier… When it comes to scene-setting and all sorts of description, a meal is as good as a feast.
- When dialogue is right, we know. When it’s wrong we also know – it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.
- You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.
On Writing is wonderful, and it’s a reality check for anyone who wants to be a writer. That said, it’s only ever uplifting.
Highly recommended for everyone, but particularly for those who are writers or perhaps even just contemplating the possibility of perhaps maybe one day trying to write something. You can buy it from Booktopia here, or from Book Depository here.
Have you read On Writing? What did you think?
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