On Writing by Stephen King is a book that’s part memoir and part a discussion on the craft of fiction. King goes about describing how he came to be a writer, what he thinks exists in good writing, and how became a better writer. I enjoyed his matter-of-fact tone and the way he approaches his craft. I specifically connected with the idea that the story is a fossil the writer excavates. And while I didn’t read this book before I wrote my piece in CRAFT, my author’s note rings eerily like his, “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” I like this idea, and it’s reaffirming to know he treats his stories the same. I also enjoyed the glimpses into his life where I saw parallels to my own writing journey.
Though, as with any writing advice, I’d be hesitant to take everything he says as the ultimate truth. I agree story is the most important part of fiction and character’s actions/situations drive the narrative. I also agree one most read a lot and write a lot to become better. However, I’m a little more hesitant to take his advice on writing a thousand words every day or the specifics of his craft. To me, it seems much of his advice is prescriptive, and without it, one isn’t being a proper writer. His authoritative voice is convincing but doesn’t apply to everyone. I’m also not sure of his idea that competent writers can only become good writers, or you can’t become a great writer if you’re a good writer. To someone just starting the craft, this seems demoralizing and assumes people can’t fundamentally change. Overall, I’ll be taking a few nuggets of wisdom from King, but I’ll be leaving everything else.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.