ON WRITING by Stephen King
Kirkus Star


A Memoir of the Craft
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Generous, lucid, and passionate, King (Hearts in Atlantis, 1999, etc.) offers lessons and encouragement to the beginning writer, along with a warts-and-all account of a less-than-carefree life.

The composition of this memoir, King’s first nonfiction work since Danse Macabre, was interrupted when he was almost killed by a drunk driver in 1999. The first portion of it shares the making of the writer: his impoverished but experientially rich childhood, his first efforts and influences, the threadbare existence he and his wife Tabitha lived until the publication of Carrie, and his remarkable success thereafter. There are some delightful anecdotes here. In a late-night creative frenzy, his wife sleeping in their London hotel room, King asks the concierge for a place to write and is led to Rudyard Kipling's desk. Though intimidated, King proceeds to write the beginnings of Misery, then thanks the concierge, who tells him, “Kipling died there actually. . . . While writing.” King discusses his problems with drugs and alcohol and offers an assessment of his own work (he doesn’t think much of Insomnia or Rose Madder, but he liked Cujo and regrets that he was too drunk at the time to remember writing any of it). Written largely while recovering from his accident, the rest of the memoir answers the questions King hears from aspiring writers, as well as the questions they should be asking, but don't. With examples that reach from T.S. Eliot to pulp fiction, there's much trenchant material here on how to construct a story, how to revise, and how to go about building a career. King stresses character and situation over plotting, and insists on basics—like Strunk and White and, above all, endless reading and writing. While his proposed output might intimidate some, his enthusiasm wins out.

A useful book for any young writer, and a must for fans, this is unmistakably King: friendly, sharply perceptive, cheerfully vulgar, sometimes adolescent in his humor, sometimes impatient with fools, but always sincere in his love of language and writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-85352-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000


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