Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An Audio Book Review of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

By Stephen King
Published 2002 by Pocket Books
Simon and Shuster Audio
Copy obtained from public library

I have to first admit that I listened to this audio book as part of a requirement for the Southern Maine Writing Project Summer Institute. We were required to read a book about a writer's life from a list of five possibilities. I chose this book for several reasons. First, I am a Mainer and really wanted to learn more about Stephen King who also calls Maine home. I had also heard wonderful things about the book from other nerdy friends. Lastly, if I'm being honest, having an audio version was a factor because of the little reading time that I have this summer. I am so glad I chose this book and, especially the audio version. I am sure King's voice comes through in the print version, but I am not sure it could compare to hearing his actual voice tell his story. On Writing is entertaining and informative to read even if you don't plan to do any sort of writing. King is a master storyteller. 

The book is a combination memoir of parts of his life and advice for aspiring writers. He includes events from his childhood, both horrific and hilarious from his recurring ear infections and the excruciating process of "draining" his ear to wiping "himself" with poison ivy. Later he tell about his alcoholism, marriage, publishing and getting sober. It is a thrilling ride told so the reader (or listener) feels like they are sitting right next to King and he is telling the story just to them. 

Here are some favorite quotes:

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

“Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects.”

“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

“Grammar is...the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking.”

There are so many more quotes I loved, but many are too colorful to include here. 

From this book here are some things I take away. 
*Writers need to be readers (yes, I knew that but I don't think it can be said enough).
*Don't try to make your writing something it is not. Don't dress up your words. 
*You need people in your life whom you trust to read your writing and give you feedback. 
*Let your dialogue show who your character's traits. 
*Let your writing rest a bit after revisions. Then you will look at it with fresh eyes. 

I would highly recommend On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft for anyone, but especially for anyone who wants to improve their own writing. It is highly entertaining and instructive. You will not be disappointed. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review and all the great quotes about writing. I have started this book but put it aside for other reading. This summer I have committed to read middle grade novels. I am taking seriously the premise about reading to be a writer. Maybe I should look for the book on tape. I am currently listening to Inkheart and it is never ending.