Books, Essay, Reviews

Stephen King On Writing

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a part memoir, part writing manual, and part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. This book is essential for both who love to write or who love Stephen King.

This book binds together three very different parts: an autobiography, the part teaching the art of writing according to Stephen King, and a description of the author’s current (circa 2000’s) life and work. I haven’t read much of the King’s fiction book, but On Writing:A Memoir of the Craft displays what a great talent he is in the world of written words.

King offers advice in between the text for aspiring writers along with his own story of becoming a writer and continuing to live life as one. His advice on being a writer:

I don’t believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or self-will (although, I did believe those things at once). The equipment comes with the original package. Yet it is by no means unusual equipment; I believe large number of people have at least some talent as writer and storytellers, and that those tales can be strengthened and sharpened.

On realising the fact that hard work is essential and why continue to write even ‘when you don’t feel like’:

Realisation that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like.



On why alcoholism is martyr to creativity and his sufferings due to addiction:

What you got was energy and a kind of superficial intelligence. What you gave up in exchange was your soul. It was the best metaphor for drugs and alcohol my tired, overstressed mind could come up with.

[…] At the worst of it I no longer wanter to drink and no longer wanter to be sober, either. I felt evicted from life.

Vocabulary is essential for every writer. It is the most important tool and the most common one too:

Common tools go on top. The commonest of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary.

Put your vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it.


On writing with clarity:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re may be a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you’ll never use ’emolument’ when you mean ‘tip’. Talk only plain and direct.

On why use of grammar is essential:

You’ll also want grammar on the top shelf of your toolbox. […] Grammar is not just a pain in the ass; it’s a pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking. If you start to freak out at the sight of such unmapped territory just remind yourself that rocks explode, Jane transmits and mountains float.

I think his following words is a universal advice for any writer who wants to improve his skill of writing:

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

On why reading with diversity is essential:

Every book you pick has its own lesson or lessons and quite often bad books have more to teach than the good ones.

Ultimately, King explains on what writing is all about:

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives if those who will read your work and enriching your life as well.



18 thoughts on “Stephen King On Writing”

  1. I love Stephen King so much. In moments where I don’t think I can be a writer I always refer back to this book. It encourages me to move on and to fight for the work I truly believe in. He is an amazing author and will forever be my writing inspiration. If I didn’t believe in God, I might worship Stephen King. lol


      1. I have found that people either love or hate Stephen King. I started reading his books when I was 12, so I never had the chance to see him from the other side of the fence. He does get a little lengthy in certain areas of his books, but at some point you learn what information you can just skim over when reading his books.


  2. My wife and I were huge Stephen King fans in the 1970s, but eventually ran out of patience with him when he ran out of ideas. Books like “Gunslinger” (a series that just ran on and on and on, to no purpose), “The Tommyknockers” (an exercise in padding), and the warmed-over feminism of “Gerald’s Game” just totally turned us off.
    Recently I revisited what we thought were his two best books, “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining,” and was very disappointed in them. That whole technique of telling you the whole life story of every character in the book, and that whole whiny motif of the college guy always, predictably, turning out to be a bigger he-man that the blue-collar dunces who make fun of him–well, that stuff gets old fast.


  3. I have read just about every book the King has written starting with Salems Lot when i was eleven. On Writing is one of my fave books and sits on tge side of my bed. Ive always considered him one of the best even when critics lumped him as weak. How is the Green Mile weak?? he actually released GM in montly installments which i thought was brilliant


      1. I think King has dipped into most genres of literature and has done so very well. I know at first instance people think just horror but he is much more than that hevis simply a great story teller!


  4. This has been on my to read list for the longest time. I really need to start it. Stephen King is a fantastic author with years of experience. I agree that everyone has the ability to write and to be a writer you just need to work at it. Even if you aren’t in the mood. This post reignited my desire to read this book. Thank you! Great reviews and thanks for all the support on my own blog.


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