I recently downloaded a digital edition of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft after reading the hardcover more than a decade ago. I planned on skimming my ebook edition, looking for a few pointers, but I was immediately drawn in by Big Steve’s affable style, and I wound up re-reading the book in its entirety.
The first thing On Writing reveals is that King’s easy-going narrative style is the product of a master craftsman. It takes years of relentless effort to make the flow of language sound effortless.
King admits on Page One that most writing books are “filled with bullshit,” with the only exception being Strunk and White‘s The Elements of Style. This may be the best piece of practical writing advice in On Writing. All writers should own a copy of The Elements of Style and treat its words as gospel.
That’s not to say King doesn’t offer plenty of writing advice of his own in On Writing. The book is packed with good advice and interesting anecdotes. My favorite writing tip is a simple editing formula:
“2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%”
Other pearls of writing wisdom include:
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
“Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”
Is there anything in On Writing to interest non-King fans or aspiring writers? I think so, but then, I’m a diehard King fan.
The lengthy essay about King’s near-fatal accident (he was hit by a van while walking along a Maine country road in June 1999) and his long recovery — with a return to writing at the endpoint — is powerful and insightful. But then, I’m a diehard fan. Did I mention that?
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