I grew up, in a way, reading Stephen King. I didn’t read all of his books, but off and on, I’d pick one up and usually enjoyed them. I think my first was The Stand in 8th grade, back in 1978? No wonder I’m obsessed with the apocalypse. He started me off early. Then naturally there was The Shining, and Jack Nicholson burned that one in even further. Somehow I missed out on Carrie the book, but Sissy Spacek and her bloody visage, wow. Now that I’m trying to do a bit of writing, I decided to take a look at his critically acclaimed book on the craft of writing. So yesterday I read King’s book On Writing in one sitting, and I’ll just go ahead and say I highly recommend it. Is he known for scholarly, cerebral or “important” literary works? Nah, but wow is he prolific, successful, creative and funny. The book is part childhood biography, a self-aware glimpse of important moments in his life that instructed his creative impulses. It’s also part English teacher (he used to be one) lecture on the mechanics of writing and getting published.
It’s a fast, interesting read which includes his base line advice (see title). I especially like it because he so adamantly enjoys hating on TV, aka “the glass teat.” He writes every day of the year, and likens writing to uncovering a fossil. His work is an uncovering of the fossil, narrating the discovered bits as he goes. He also says plotting a novel is like using a jackhammer to uncover a delicate, breakable fossil. Finished after his 1999 near-death experience of being hit by a van on a Maine roadside, his book provides the reader an honest, thoughtful and self-deprecating look at his work. He opens up about his struggles with addiction, and talks of missing out on several of the books he wrote because he was wasted out of his mind when he wrote them. He also is incredibly loving towards his wife and kids. All in all, a great glimpse into the process from a hugely successful writer. You’ll love all the behind-the-scenes stories of how he got the ideas for his colorful, miserable characters. Speaking of Misery, which King masterpiece kept you up at night? I’m sticking with my first.