Posted by: writerjames | October 7, 2009

Stephen King’s On Writing – Required Reading

On Writing

If you’re a writer of fiction, you need to read Stephen King’s On Writing – a Memoir of the Craft.  Period.  End of story.  If you don’t want to read it, get it on CD.  King himself is the audio reader, which makes it even more interesting.  This is how I first heard it, then I rushed out and bought the book.  I’ve read or listened to it four or five times now, and I get something different and useful every time.

I don’t care if you’re a fan of King or not, this no-nonsense, cut-through-the-bull book is an invaluable resource for creators of fiction.  The fact is that King is one of the most prolific, talented, and disciplined writers of our time, and this is like a master course from the man himself.

The first half of the book is King telling his life’s story, from childhood all the way up to the car accident that almost took his life (Stephen finished On Writing as he recovered).  This part of the book alone is worth the price.  As King recounts the spike on his bedroom wall where he hung countless rejection letters, the sale of his first novel, Carrie, and his battles with substance abuse, it’s hard not to get caught up in both the tragedy and the triumph of his story.

What follows his story, though, is a front-to-back writing seminar that covers both the business of writing, and the writing itself.  It is this part of the book that will open your eyes as an aspiring writer.  Take notes or use a highlighter, because he moves fast, and he covers a lot of valuable information.

A few of my favorite points:

  • If you’re going to write, you also have to read.  A LOT.
  • Commitment is important.  King recommends writing 2,000 words a day to start, every single day.
  • Don’t plot out a story.  Create interesting characters, drop them into an interesting situation, and show what happens.  Don’t worry about plot.
  • Turn off the TV.

While I don’t necessarily agree with or practice every single thing King recommends (the TV thing is hard for me sometimes…), I love this book, and I highly suggest you read it if you’re serious about being a writer.

If you’ve read it, let me know what you think.  And if you’ve read other books that you feel are equally valuable, let me know about them as well.



  1. I’m gonna go out and buy it ASAP! I’m gonna read it right away! (Well, maybe after I finish Iron John…)

    • You won’t regret it. Great book.

  2. This book has been no secret to me and I’m in complete agreeance with you regarding your insistence that all writers should read this book. I actually own a Reader’s Advance Copy from when I worked at Barnes and Noble and I also own the audio, which I’ve listened to many, many times. I could quote that book to no end. It has been a fantastic resource for me. Much of it has little colored sticky arrows where all the useful stuff is.

    Take care and write on!

  3. I finally read this book this week. Although I don’t think most of what he says about writing is that new or shocking, I find I paid more attention to it because an accessible unpretentious author was putting it across. I’ve been reading his novels for nearly twenty years so I enjoyed the personal insights. I think this is a good book for any aspiring writer (King fan or not) who’s put off by a lot of the stuffy writing books out there.

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