Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Writing, by Stephen King’s - book review

Read 15/01/2014

My rating: 4/5

This book is a collection of things. First, it’s a biography, recounting his early years with the theme of the burgeoning writer. Having read quite a few of his novels, I was surprised and delighted to find hints and indications, every few pages, of the experiences that translated into the novel ideas that I recognized from his lengthy and prolific production. For instance, he mentions getting locked in a closet, I think of Carrie. He mentions being worried of losing a limb to industrial machinery in a mill, I think of Night Shift. And so on.

He takes us up to the period of his twenties, then to his getting his first novel published (Carrie), and the book shifts to describing his writing process. I suppose that, to grant any authority to the “writer’s toolbox” that he proposes and recommends that the fledgling writer should build, one would have to first admire his work. However, even without being a fan of the horror genre that he molded and developed, you’d have to acknowledge the beauty of the way he presents his craft, touching only lightly on literary theory and insisting instead on a few core concepts that are required to deliver effective storytelling.

Whether or not one wishes to write fiction, this read is very compelling. It’s Stephen King, he makes you suspend disbelief with disarming (alarming ?) ease, he takes you into his study, sits you down by his side and chats away in a friendly voice about what it is he’s doing.

And then, suddenly, he is broken by a brutal car accident, his leg smashed, his lung collapsed. Stephen King-ish, is it not ? It serves a definite, practical purpose though, because after suffering the accident, he can’t write for a while. Getting back to it, rebuilding the writing habit and describing it in the last part of this book, is a way of putting into practice the process he proposed earlier in it, by placing himself once again in the position of the novice.

I like that writers such as King still think of writing as a craft. I fear that the day will come when writing will be governed by some all-pervasive theory, when writers will no longer be craftsmen but rather architects, and readers will appreciate the conceptual acrobatics of the novel and ignore its gritty foundations. That’s why I also like that a writer such as Stephen King wrote this book. While reading it, I felt like he was reassuring me, that all the shock and excitement I felt when reading so many other of his books was no accident, that a lot of work went into building those dark universes that appeared so effortlessly haunting, and that so many more universes remain to be discovered and developed.


  1. I really like your reviews, they are the perfect length and have the ability to be articulate yet accessible.