Wednesday, July 6, 2011

About On Writing

Post By Kerrie

Stephen King's book On Writing is one of the best books about writing. No, I take that back, it IS the best book about writing.

King opens the book by sharing his writing journey and we see that he struggled. Yes, Stephen King struggled, just like the rest of us, to get his writing career going. Then in the second part he talks about his writing toolbox and gives great advice and strong opinions on the craft.

This amazing piece of work is funny, poignant, informative and a must read for every writer. I don't lend my personal copy of On Writing to anyone and I do mean anyone. If the president of the U.S. wanted my copy it would take at least 10 social services guys to pry it out of my hands while I screamed obscenities at them.

I also don't normally deface books and am not typically a re-reader, but On Writing is the exception. Dozens of pages are dog-eared, the margins are written in and I re-read it whenever I can.

Starting on Tuesday, I am leading a 4-week, On Writing, book study through Northern Colorado Writers. This gives me an excuse to read it again and then discuss it in depth with other writers. We are also going to apply his words of wisdom to our own writing and then share that with each other. My insides feel like a shaken-up soda right now I am so excited.

Here are some of my favorite dog-eared, underlined passages in the book:

"You must not come lightly to the blank page. I'm not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I'm not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor. This isn't a popularity contest, it's not the moral Olympics, and it's not church. But it's writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. if you can't or won't, it's time for you to close the book and something else.  Wash the car maybe."

"I am convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing."

"The hours we spend talking about writing is the time we don't spend actually doing it."

"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better."

Have you read On Writing? If so, what did you learn from it?



Dean K Miller said...

I enjoyed this book immensely. Was actually in the middle of the book when I took the Stanley Hotel tour.

Incredible insight and instruction, lots of humor, some very pointed thoughts.

What did I learn the most? Hard to say after just one read. But there is a level of dedication required to set ourselves apart from the crowd.

I'll be reading again soon.

Laila Knight said...

I love Stephen King. He's the reason I hate clowns. It's hard to believe that someone like him struggled like the rest of us writers. It's always refreshing to hear that even the great ones had to work hard to pursue their dreams. He has some very valid points, and I would love to read the book. If talking about writing keeps us from atually doing it, then doesn't blogging fall into the same catergory? Just a thought.

Nathan Lowell said...

I only just read it this year for the first time.

Amazing insight into the writerly life and immensely affirming for me and my writing practice.

Which I should be doing instead of reading blogs :/

Marlena Cassidy said...

I tend to shy away from books that talk about writing and how to write because most of them don't work for me, but after reading this post and the comments above me, I'm going to have to give it a shot. I have a special place in my heart for his early works, and I'm pretty sure now that I'll have a special place in my heart for On Writing. Thank you for calling it back to my attention.

JD said...

I agree that this is the best book on the writing craft. The best thing I got from it was to write the first draft with the door closed. I seek validation from others so much that it can sometimes send me off in so many directions I can't focus on just getting the first draft done and fixing all the comments at the same time. He tells you to open the door when you are finished and then let the criticism in.

Kerrie said...

Laila and Marlena, I highly recommend reading the book. It is different than other writing books out there.

Laila, When he says the hours we spend talking about our books, is hours spent away from writing, I think what he means is that so many people talk to everyone and their dog about what the book is going to be about, how the plot is going to go, the characters... instead of writing it. So, I don't think blogging falls into that category--unless you are blogging about your book, and the characters and...

JD-I too like what he says about when to keep the door closed and when to open it.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and adding your comments. I do appreciate it!

John Paul McKinney said...

I read it several years ago when it was first published. All I can remember is all the trouble he had at first, even throwing a novel away that, as I recall, his wife (his IR?) retrieved from the trash, and that adverbs ar a no-no. Now you make me want to read it again. So I just took it off the shelf. Thanks.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

Great encouragement to read it. A friend gave me a copy and it's been sitting on the "to read" shelf.

Edna Pontillo said...

I just started it and so far it's great. Remember that old Elvis song A Little More Action A Little Less Conversation? Sounds like that's the message here.
Unlike you I do mark up my books and sometimes re-read and always need something for reference - is that my way of avoiding the real thing, you think?
Steven King's genre isn't my favorite, but he is an incredible writer. The Stand is one of the best books EVER! I probably should re-read it, now that I've mentioned it. ?? LOL

Patricia Stoltey said...

It has been awhile since I read this book so maybe now would be a good time to go through it again, a little slower this time.

When I think of King at work, I think of him sitting at a card table in the kitchen, forcing his way through pain and personal demons to get where he wants to be. That single-minded commitment is what I remember most about On Writing.

Kerrie said...

John Paul and Pat, I too remember how hard he worked as a young writer. (And yes, John Paul he did throw away a novel and his wife took it out of the trash). When I read how hard King worked, I respect him even more (although I don't read horror).

I am happy to hear the rest of you may read or re-read the book.

T.A. Northburg said...

I agree. This is the best book on writing. On top of it all, it is very inspiring.

Rob said...

I bought On Writing during my Sophomore year at High School (more or less when it released), and I've read it many, many times since. Aside from Zen And The Art Of Writing by Ray Bradbury, it's at the top of my list when it comes to books about the writing craft.

And my copy is worn out, too. Might just pick up a new one.

Paige R. Productions said...

I'm still in the process of reading it but I think it's great so far. My favorite part is when he links writing to talking with the future. He's writing about a small blue desk and the reader can picture it in their minds years, even decades, after he wrote that sentence. It was something like that but that really stood out for me so far.

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