Craft Books 1: Stephen King’s On Writing

The first book that I’m going to write about is Stephen King’s On Writing. Like most of King’s books it’s easy to read and has a chatty, conversational tone. It feels as if he’s talking directly to you – or at least I feel as if he’s talking directly to me! It’s a difficult book to truly define – like many of King’s books it does not fit easily into any one genre. It’s as much an autobiography of his writing life as it is a craft book. However you define it, it works. I have started to write this article a number of times and each time have got sidetracked into re-reading various sections of this book.

King is often quoted as saying that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” (On Writing, p.139) and while this is certainly good advice for a beginner it is not the sum total of the sort of advice King has to offer. He talks about his childhood and, if you’re familiar with his books, you can see the seeds of many of his later ideas within those stories from his childhood. This is invaluable when trying to work out what sort of things to write about in the first place and how childhood events can be changed and developed into ideas for characters, incidents and even whole novels.

It is also well worth reading to see exactly how hard he works and how many hours he devotes to working on his own craft every single day. He doesn’t leave you with many illusions about instant success and the fact that a comment made to him by a teacher had the power to affect his sense of self-worth and belief in his writing for so many years really resonated with me.

It’s a very human book which lets you see the person behind the writer. If you want to try to make writing your career rather than just a hobby there are few better books to start with.