Quick Review of Stephen King’s “On Writing”

One of the most famous writing advice books out there…”On Writing” by Stephen King. I tried reading this a year or two ago but got bored of it. It was also stupendously long and I preferred a more TLDR type of read at the time. This time I did myself a big favor by skipping the first third of the book, which felt like a biography. I wasn’t reading for a biography. Thank god I found the actual start of the writing advice section in the book.

I gave it another chance this month, reading it as an ebook on my computer. Here are my notes on his famous nonfiction book.

  • He directly discusses another famous writing advice book, “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. This is a book I actually read back in college for my English class. It introduced me to the idea of brevity in writing. What’s brevity? If you can say anything in less words, shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs, always do it. Even though I find the Style book to be unusually formatted, I still follow the advice on brevity to this day. Life is short…I could easily turn this post into 20 pages of rambling. But instead I squeeze my thoughts into their simplest, shortest forms possible.
  • Overall, King provides a solid, comprehensive overview of the writing process in general. He discusses many relevant steps of the process, such as plotting, character development, finding an agent, publishing and more. Going beyond the final draft was really handy to read. I was wondering if the book would only be about just writing itself and not the whole process of creating a book.
  • The pace is pretty good. King discusses a variety of subjects in his book. He manages to keep a reasonable chapter length for each advice chapter while sprinkling in personal stories and examples from his own books.

I liked his book. At least, the latter chunk of it where he gets into the actual writing advice. It all sounded solid and was diverse and a useful, fulfilling experience to me. If you are also a writer, it’s worth a skim! I don’t even write mysteries or whatnot and I still thought his advice was either interesting or something I completely agreed with.

For instance, his advice to never censor dialogue makes sense. I started implementing that in my writing a month or two ago. It makes some of the scenes ridiculous, but they also let the characters really shine. Also, his observation that “characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own” is something I have felt after spending a month or two going super deep into my characters’ details and total beings. I know that sounds weird, but when you really think about EVERYTHING on a character, study their psychology, study them otherwise and think about their past, present and future…your mind can sort of auto generate character reactions from all that info.

My best pieces of advice for writers.

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