Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Writing, by Stephen King


I've never read any of King's books, and I have no idea what I'll think of them when I do, but this book? Is great. King's conversational style is forthright and flecked with humor--as with all good books of this type, the reader feels as if he or she is sitting down for a chat with the author. Or at least getting a flavor of what a chat might look like. Based on the tone of this book, I'm guessing such a conversation would be eminently enjoyable.

But the purpose of the book is not merely to wile away a few hours listening to/reading King natter on about his life and thoughts--though as purposes go, you could do much worse. King also wants to educate his readers on the business of writing.

Bottom line:
1) You must read. (Check.)
2) You must write. Not just think about writing, or wish you were writing, or intend to write. You must write. (Which . . . not so much a check for that one.)

Still, it's good advice, and consistent with what I've read/heard from other authors I respect (Anne Lamott, Neil Gaiman, etc.). So much of writing is just discipline. It's that simple, and it's that hard.

Of course, King also gives a brief nod to the mechanics of good writing--grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc.--which is a thing that I for one greatly appreciate. And he talks some about the nuts-and-bolts of publishing, agents, and getting your foot in the door. But the main focus is on the sheer fact of doing. Write. Revise. Repeat.

Books like this always make me wonder if I could be a writer. Probably not. I don't really have ideas, and I certainly don't have the discipline. Still, it's nice to think about, and I appreciate King telling it like it is. Or at least like it is from his perspective, which is all anyone can do anyway.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in writing. But even if you're not a wannabe writer, I still recommend this book to you. Because regardless of your own authorial aspirations, if you enjoy reading good writing, this book is well worth your time.

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