Thursday, January 10, 2019

[Book Review] On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King was a wonderful blend of memoir and lessons about writing fiction. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so I really enjoyed learning about his life and his process!

I can't believe it took me so long to give this one a read! If you've been putting it off as well, I highly recommend moving it closer to the top of your TBR list!

Let's dive in!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

As this is Stephen King, I'm not going to focus on the writing style for long. I will simply say that I really enjoyed how this book was organized; it was sectioned into various chunks, but it all flowed so well and King tied everything together wonderfully. I loved that he added in a few callbacks to something that he had written about earlier in the book, this was such a fun touch!

The first chunk of the book was about his life, centering mainly on his childhood and teen years before moving on to his marriage and early career. This helped to show the reader what his life was like and how his childhood shaped him as a writer. This was the most interesting section to me because I really enjoy learning more about individuals that I am a huge fan of, especially when they are the ones writing their story!

The What Writing Is chapter was awesome! I love how he painted a picture and then broke it down and relayed that to writing and telepathy. This chapter also housed one of my favorite quotes of all time:

Next up was the section called “Toolbox” where he begins with a wonderful story about childhood and a toolbox and then relates that to basic writing skills, or your tools, and explains these tools a bit.

Then we get into the section with the lessons about writing called "On Writing." This section was slightly dry to me, simply because I am not a fiction writer so some of the tips and tricks didn't really stand out for me. That being said, I still found it really interesting to read and I loved learning more about the craft! I will definitely be using a few things that I learned when an author sends me an draft of their book and asks for feedback. I also need to make use of a few lessons that I learned in my blog posts!

The book then begins to wind down with a section called "On Living: A Postscript." This section was very difficult to read as it discusses King's accident in detail. It was so heartbreaking to learn more about the van that hit him. I remember when this happened. As a Mainer, this was all over the news so I was aware of the details, but hearing it straight from him was so powerful.

This last section ends on a wonderful note, but it's certainly not a section for the squeamish.

A few additional notes:
King doesn’t remember setting Cujo, as it was during his drug and alcohol stage. I thought this was a rumor, but turns out it is true! Poor guy, I'm glad he got out of that phase!

Throughout the book, I adored how much he talked about his wife, Tabitha! It was so heartwarming to read about their support of one another. 

My favorite passages:
Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.

Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

... books are a uniquely portable magic.

If I have to spend time in purgatory before going to one place or the other, I guess I’ll be all right as long as there’s a lending library...

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.

If there’s no joy in it, it’s just no good.

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

... and one of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never tell us a thing if you can show us…

And I believe that most people smart enough to read a novel are also tactful enough to find a gentler mode of expression than “This sucks.”

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

My final thoughts:
If you are a writer of fiction, I highly recommend this one! There are so many wonderful lessons included that are written in such an interesting way.

If you're simply a reader, I also highly recommend this one! I am not a fiction writer, but I still loved learning more about the craft! And of course, the section that was mainly memoir was so interesting!

Thanks for reading!
Have you read any books on writing? If so, what was your favorite?

Snag your copy here:


  1. I do hear this is a good one, and since I write fiction, I probably should grab it at some point. I knew he had a drug/alcohol phase and forgot things he wrote, but I didn't know he had gotten hit by a van at some point. How scary!


    1. I definitely recommend this one! I'd love to hear your thoughts when you pick it up and what you take away as a writer! :) And right?! He came incredibly close to dying!

  2. I actually just picked this one up from the library. I hope to get it read this month! So glad it's a good one with lots of tidbits for everyone.

  3. Looks so interesting! Love the quotes. And I never knew until recently he had a drug phase- I remember reading something about some of the movies that were made from his books in the 80's or whatever and how he was affected by the habit. Glad he got out of that phase too!

  4. I found this book interesting when I read it years back. It was interesting to find out more about King and his thoughts.

  5. I would say if you're going to read about writing, you can't do much better than Stephen King!

  6. I’m so terrible at writing fiction that I don’t think a book can help me, but I read this one in college and enjoyed it. Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. I liked learning about his life. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. I've seen this recommended several times as a book on the craft of writing. I'm not much of a King reader (too squeamish!) but I respect him as a writer. I'm also always interested in the intersection between life and art and I love memoirs that explore those links.

    1. I would recommend this one for you up until the last chapter! :) The first part of his life and all of the lessons about writing was so much fun! But that last chapter was where the graphic elements came in with his accident.

  8. I loved this book so much! I am so happy you loved it too. :)

  9. One of the few Stephen King books I haven't read - I am working on Elevation now though. :)

  10. This sounds like a great read and I've always wanted a look inside of King's mind to see how he does what he does when it comes to crafting his stories.

  11. I loved this book so much. I was very surprised by it when I first read it. I'm long overdue for a reread.

  12. I have read this one and I absolutely loved it. I love how he talks about his wife - he clearly sees her as his support and evidently loves her. I really loved the ending. Maybe not for the squeamish, but it also shows how much he truly loves writing.

  13. My mum gifted this to me a few weeks ago and I'm really looking forward to reading it.