On Writing

Stephen King

What was the author's purpose for writing this book?

King chose to write his On Writing to offer advice on the art of book writing. It explains in depth how King went down the path of his life towards success as an author, and it also could be considered as a memoir of his life. So it has a sort of autobiography feel, but his main purpose for writing this book would be to simply give a well thought out theory on what writing is and how to do it. In the beginning of his book he even mentions "What follows is an attempt to put down, briefly and simply, how I came to the craft, what I know about it now, and how it's done" (XV, First Foreword).

What are three concepts, principles, or techniques that are worth noting from this book?

I've learned that a key technique, according to Stephen King, to becoming good at something comes with dedication, infinite practice and lots of trial and error. For example, Stephen spent a lot of his free time as a teenager writing short stories for the local paper, or more accurately, anyone who would accept his work. He had submitted his work so often in fact that he had started to build up a bunch of rejected writings and placing them on a nail in his wall as a sort of motivation to succeed. He had built up so much rejection slips, that "By the time I was fourteen (and shaving twice a week whether I needed to or not) the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing" (29).

One of the concepts that King was trying to get passed to us authors-in-training was the concept that, good writing should seem like telepathy. What he means by this is that a good writer has the ability to take an idea, build upon that idea and take the result (which should be a decent story or something like a story) and implement the idea into another person's mind without use of speech.

The last thing to be noted would be something that King didn't say directly, but indirectly displayed to the viewers the secret to success. This is something that I noticed while reading about the memoir type part of this book, and it was that no matter what happened, be it the death of his mother, getting hit by a car, going through relapse like symptoms with his drinking and drug problems, or whatever else might have happened he always worked through the issue and overcame the struggles of everyday life. He taught the readers how to approach success through leading by example.

On a scale of 1-5, what would you rate this book? Why?

I would give this book a solid 4. I gave it a 4 due to the fact that Stephen could make an admonition on the art of writing captivating and bare able which is a feat ought not overlooked. However, there is a great deal of negative matter in this book, it has unnecessary material that doesn't help his cause for writing the book. Such as the tangent he goes on about regarding his brother's original newspaper, Dave's Rag. Stephen's rant about Dave's Rag (In my opinion anyways) has no significant meaning for the overall theme of the book. This section, and few others that I could pick out, were not necessary. Regardless of those parts of the book, On Writing could actually be very useful for upcoming and aspiring authors. The last half of the book, from the section labeled Tool Box (100) to the end of the book (291), offers some useful tips on how to approach writing a book, therefore it would be a great investment for those interested in writing a book.

Two quotes that were worth mentioning

"Two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun" (25).


"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot" (139).

Write about something that surprised you

One thing that surprised me about Stephan was his drug and alcohol addiction. He used his writing career as an excuse for abusing. He said he used his drugs to gain some creativity for writing. This was a terrible excuse because he didn't ever need his drugs for inspiration during the time that he wrote Carrie (he was off of drugs at this time). He didn't need his drugs for inspiration because he has written tons of best sellers off of the drugs. It was surprising to me because he was so successful even though he was abusing drugs. The most interesting thing is that, Stephen claims, that he subconsciously wrote a few books with an alcoholic drug abuser as the main character, such as in Misery, Gerald's Game, and perhaps most recognized The Shining.

Summary of On Writing

On Writing is a book that combines autobiography and admonition, inspiration and instruction. It's an enjoyable mix. Stephen King tells us how he was raised, various did-you-knows about his life and then he brings to us some pro tips about writing and advises us on how to approach life as an aspiring author.