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Posts Tagged ‘Salem’s Lot

Novel Review: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

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Stephen King is one of the most popular and prolific writers working today. While not without detractors, he remains a leading figure in fiction writing, especially within the horror genre. Novels like The Stand, Cujo, Salem’s Lot and Carrie are widely known throughout the world, and his epic fantasy series, The Dark Tower, has a massive following. Furthermore, many of his novels have been turned into films, and comic book adaptations of The Stand and The Dark Tower are currently in production. Commercially he is one of the most successful novelists alive today.

With all of these accolades, King is undoubtedly in a prime position to have something to say on the craft of writing. And it is with his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, that he has decided to pass on some of his thoughts on what makes a writer, or more specifically, what makes a good writer.

The tack he has taken with this book is an inspired one. Writing is very different to economics or maths; it is not an exact science. And On Writing is certainly no textbook. One of the main points made by King is that writing is a craft, and in that craft the writer shapes the story. So each and every story is ultimately dependant on the personal life experience of their creator, the writer. To get this point across in practical terms, King dedicates a big portion at the beginning of the book to a kind of biographical history of his own life, which he aptly entitles “CV”.

With a cheeky comedic touch, King tells the tale of his life with brutal but admiral honesty in a way that is genuinely interesting as well as entertaining. From his humble childhood in a lower-middle class, single-parent family to his early adulthood trying to support a family with two kids living in a trailer park, King paints a vivid picture of the many ups and downs of his life. What the reader ends up with, is an understanding of these struggles and joys in King’s life, which shaped what kind of writer he is, and thus the stories themselves.

But the book is not all biographical story-time; King is full of practical advice as well. Instead of trying to bombard the reader with boring rules and stiff diagrams, the bulk of the book is filled with real and solid advice as to what does and does not work in the journey to write a story. With examples from his own work, as well as from other authors, King illustrates many of the do’s and don’ts of writing, all in clear language. He adopts the tone of a helpful uncle giving advice, rather than a lecturer standing at the front of a classroom, and so his teaching is very accessible.

King stresses the point that writing is above all a very personal undertaking, and that any attempt to try and teach the craft in conventional ways is useless. This is why he has written On Writing as more of a rough guide to how he became a good writer, not how you can become one. Without too many rules but filled with helpful advice, On Writing has come out as an insightful and above all useful book on the craft of writing. 


Written by Dale Weber

Thursday, 20 November, 2008 at 12:43 pm