I’ve just finished reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000), a book about writing by Stephen King. Blogs like Brain Pickings often quote from it.
I only know Stephen King from the movie adaptations of The Shining, The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption. But after reading On Writing, I feel like I’ve known King for ages.
He writes about his wandering youth, drug addiction and a near-death experience – caused by a guy who had a hard time driving a Dodge van. King does this to show why he writes. ‘For the buzz’ and ‘as a spit in the eye of despair’.
These are the things I’ll remember after reading On Writing:
- Shut the door. King stresses that you shouldn’t ask people to read along. It’s about your imagination and you shouldn’t worry about explaining the story at an early stage.
- Write two drafts. Don’t edit while writing the first one. You’re trying to uncover a fossil; a story of which the first idea has popped up in your mind and that you should now try to grasp in its entirety. Just worry about the story.
- Keep the first draft in a drawer for six weeks.
- In the second draft, look for meaning and ideas. Rewrite the story in such a way that your theme comes out more clearly for the future reader.
- Formula: 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%.
- Alcohol and drugs won’t stimulate your creativity.
- ‘Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.’
- ‘God, if only I were in the right writing environment, with the right understanding people, I just KNOW I could be penning my masterpiece’.
Without making any false promises – ‘a good writer will never become a great writer’ – King encourages you to start uncovering fossils.
Of course this is a terrible summary of a wise and warm book. Please just see it as a lengthy recommendation to read On Writing.
If I’ll, one day, will want to write a work of fiction, I’ll definitely read this book again.
But first, I’ll read at least one of Kings novels. When you’ve come to like a person so much in just a couple of evenings, you want to know what he has created.
Stephen King – On Writing: a memoir of the craft (2000)