On Writing by Stephen King

Caidyn: 4/5
Chantel: 4/5


This month, I chose the book. I’ve been wanting to get Chantel to read Stephen King for ages. And I know she’ll point out in her review that she has read Stephen King, just never finished a book by him. I just wanted her to read him since he’s such a good author. This one has been sitting on my shelf for years, waiting to be read.

In short, this book involves King giving you a memoir about his life as a burgeoning author, a section called “toolbox” that tells you all about what to do and how he suggests you do it, a postscript about his nearly fatal accident, and finally some examples of editing and a reading list. It’s not a long book, but he covers a lot of ground and is very succinct with it.

Since I’m an annotator when I read, I kept marking things. Didn’t actually write in the book like I usually would have, but I put in a ton of sticky notes to mark sentences or ideas that I really liked. I’m not a huge author. I love writing, but I have no interest in being an author. I’ve tried. I’m not good at it. I can’t just do it and come up with a plot and on and on. But, I enjoy writing when I do it, fiction or nonfiction.

But, this book gave a lot of good tips that you can take with you and apply to something else. I think my favorite one King gave was that the second draft needed to be the first draft minus 10%. That’s something I can live with doing for schoolwork so it’s not insanely long, which is a problem I have with my academic writing.

I would say Stephen King is one of the most well-known authors still working today. His influence not only extends to books but films and tv shows. One of my favorite movies is Stand By Me which is based on his novella, “The Body”. I have read his work (specifically Carrie and The Stand), but never finished the books. Today, on the last day of 2017 (thank god) I finished my first Stephen King book and I am certain I will be reading more of his work.

Caidyn chose this book for December and I was hesitant, nonfiction isn’t my strong suit, but I am really grateful that he chose On Writing. I really enjoyed this book and I would like to get my own copy soon so I can transfer my sticky notes over from the library copy I currently have.

I struggle with writing. By that I mean, I want to be a writer and I enjoy writing but it’s not something I do on a normal basis. Something that bothers me. Now, Stephen King might tell me to not bother (he’s good about laying harsh truths out there), but in all honesty his book inspired me. I don’t know how long the inspiration will last or how effective it will be but that’s beside the point. I feel this was the perfect book to close out 2017 with because in 2018 I’d like to start writing again. Every day even if it’s just one line. The idea is daunting, but I want to be a writer. I have since I was very young and time and time again I’ve held myself back. I’m afraid of writing. Why? Because I don’t know if I’m good at it. I hope that I am, but it’s easy for me to get discouraged.

One of Stephen King’s methods when writing, specifically first drafts, is to “close the door”. By this he means, just write. Don’t let anyone else read it. Don’t bother editing it until it’s complete. Just write everything that comes into your mind surrounding the story you are trying to tell. Everything else will come in the second draft. I found this encouraging because I struggle with first drafts. Is it good? Is that the right word to use? Does this make sense? None of that should matter with the first draft. I think that’s the best advice I took from this book.

Stephen King’s voice in this book is very casual and conversational. I really enjoyed that. It’s part memoir, part writing advice and while I think the second part of the book was stronger than the first, I liked reading how writing influenced him even when he was young. Not to mention, the way he talks about his wife and how much he loves her is #goals for me.

I would recommend this book if you have any desire to be a writer at all. I wish I had read this back in high school or at least a few years ago, but I finally did and I can’t wait to start writing fiction again.

For one, I’m very glad that I was able to give this to Chantel. We met through writing, something that we don’t talk about. We’ve known each other for about two to three years (is it two or three now??) and we bonded through writing. Without writing, we wouldn’t know one another. We literally still write together outside of blogging, something I doubt we’ll share anytime soon. Whereas I have given up with writing, I know Chantel loves writing and wants to be an author. I mean, we’ve talked about ideas together and I know I’d be happy to beta read for her if that’s what she wanted.

But, I totally agree with you. I love his idea on drafts. You write and just get it out of your head onto paper. There are many more drafts yet to come. Get it out, then you can worry about the technical details. One thing I liked was that you can take those suggestions he makes for fiction writing to nonfiction. I could easily take his ideas to heart and write without thinking about it, then work on the overarching themes later.

Should we focus more on the conversational part or his #goals? Because I know we agree there with each other on both parts.

I’m chuckling at how very vague you are being. Not that I want to be specific, just think it’s funny. Anyway, I’m really glad I was able to read this book because I do love writing a lot. I just haven’t been doing it lately and it’s disappointing. I’m not saying this will change overnight, but I’m hoping to do better going forward.

We can focus on the conversational tone first. It was very much like a mentor or a teacher you admire talking about writing, and he was a teacher at one point so that makes sense. He was very good about giving advice but not sounding condescending. He was brutally honest but not mean. I just liked the way he wrote, it was as if we were talking face to face and that really connected me to what he had to say.

While some of our followers might find our personal lives with each other extremely interesting, I do like having some things private (no offense). But I didn’t think we wanted to get further into it. And I’m also tipsy and about to have MORE ALCOHOL so shut up. However, remember that one line a day thing. Just one.

Yes, he felt as if someone you could approach if you had questions. Not someone who’s going to judge or tell you that you’re wrong or stupid or whatever. Someone, you can know they’re going to tell it to you straight, whether you like it or not. I always feel he has that conversational tone, but it really shone through in this book. I enjoyed how he even put (at least in my copy) how he’d let people email him and while he might not read all, he’d read some to give feedback. I liked that.

I mean, being on the internet we should keep some stuff private. Sorry, not sorry. I am tipsy too, this might not be a good combination, but I’m not drinking anymore. Just one line a day is a lot more than I’ve done most days for years, so one line a day isn’t much but it’s far better than I’ve been doing.

I did find some things he said rather harsh, and some of it honestly brought up my own doubts about my writing, but it was more encouraging than not. I like the honesty, but I don’t like the idea that I might be a bad writer and will never be good if that’s the case. His personality also shone through in the book and I found him really likable. It’s rare that I feel such a personal connection in a memoir, but in this one I did. There was something special about the way he wrote. I did see the prompt he offered and then suggested emailing him with what you came up with. That was really cool and I wonder if people still do it.

My pinot grigio is delicious. As with the pizza I’m eating. Oh, and my parents and I shared a bottle of sparkling rose AND my mom and I had a couple fingers of hard liquor. Oh my am I having fun. I think you can do one line a day. Think about it by writing with me, like we do quite often.

Yes, I can see that. Perhaps I appreciated it since I’m very blunt myself and would rather put it honestly than beating around the bush, saying it but not saying it. (And I also think you’re a great writer, Chantel. I do. I’ve written with you for years, watched you grow, and know that your ideas are good. Just perhaps grammar could be edited, yet that’s something minor to figure out later.)

King really did connect. I would love to read some of the submissions that he got since it honestly felt as if I could email him and he’d tell me what he thought. And I’d actually trust his opinion.

I think you are having too much fun there. I think I can do it too. It’s not like I don’t write either. I do, but not what I’d really like to focus on but for now I have something. Even writing reviews for (almost?) every book I’ve read this year is still writing.

I think blunt is fine, I’m just a sensitive snowflake over here. I would rather have honesty as well as opposed to straight up lying and beating around the bush. I knew someone who was constantly told they were a good singer and they weren’t. I know I’m a bad singer but it wasn’t because someone necessarily told me so. I do know the feeling of wanting something really bad though and not knowing if you are good enough. I appreciate the praise though, and I know my grammar is shit. It’s not the thing I think about, I’m just trying to get all my ideas out, you know? Grammar can come later.

I would 100% trust his opinion. He knows what the fuck he’s talking about and yet he was still humble. I think we’ve all heard of Stephen King, but you wouldn’t know how popular he is based on how he talks about himself. It’s great to know that he does it because he loves writing and no other reason.

When don’t we have fun? But the topics we went over were heavy, so that wasn’t so fun. No, you just write different. I think it’d be cool if you used that Hogwarts journal you got to start writing something. Put it to good use so it doesn’t just lay around. JK would approve.

We became friends over my blunt honesty, so I know you can handle it. It’s just hard. I think you are a good writer and polishing stuff is good, but a later problem, just as King put it. Yes, it’s a foundation, but you can’t expect perfection the first draft. Think of all the times you’ve caught typos in published books. And you always catch them while I don’t notice them. I do agree that King gave great advice. Put your ideas out on the page first. Everything can come later. You don’t get it right the first time.

King is popular and well-known, but also extremely good at his craft. And, God, the reverence he comes towards his craft inspires me in general. He never stops approaching it as if he knows it as an old friend, yet a changeable one.

Okay, I lied. I did get more alcohol. If I’m not having fun then I haven’t had enough. Okay, not really but you know…it’s New Years. I was actually going to use that. My mom got me that and some books with writing exercises so she knows how much I want to get back to writing too. She’s read some of my work and I’ve made her cry over and over, but she’s biased. She’s my mom. I don’t want to waste it because it’s a great notebook and it was the present she was most proud of. Also, Stephen King’s love of Harry Potter was delightful.

I appreciate your honesty when you give it and because of it I really value your opinion. I’ve also never really gotten my work out there. When he was a teenager, he was submitting stories to magazines. I never did anything like that. I actually talked myself out of contests in high school and I regret doing that. I’m just afraid of not being good. Especially when it comes to first drafts. I worry so much over first drafts when it’s just about getting ideas out on the page. It’s not going to be perfect, that’s impossible. Omg I’ve found typos in bestselling books, y’all. It is good advice though and I’m going to give it a try. I really want to.

Yes, he talks about writing as an old friend. That’s a great way to put it. He talks about the endless possibilities and about writing whatever you want. That idea is so appealing, especially to me. I’ve got ideas in my head that are so different from each other but I know I can write about all of them if I wanted. It’s always nice to read about someone’s passion and there is no doubt writing is Stephen King’s passion.

Alcohol is a great and terrible thing. Why they trust us with it is amazing to me. 2018 is the writing year, yo. Since I’m sure this will be published after New Year’s Eve, this is going to be 2018 when we post it. And our tipsy ramblings will amuse everyone. Either way, you should get a notebook and use it to write stuff out in. I love it even more since years have passed and now they’re friends on Twitter and she offered to send him Trump’s tweets since he got blocked by him.

I think that’s a common fear writers have. Even though this is more nonfiction than what you and King do, I always worry about my writing and it not making sense. Think of all the times I’ve asked you to read over my work and you’ve had to dive into shit that makes next to no sense unless you know the topic. Psychopathy, empathy, heterosexuality and homosexuality in Japan, etc. I think that you and myself (I’m included in this) thinks too much of the finished product before actually working on the current blank page. We want it perfect. I think you should since I know you have good ideas, even if you broke King’s rule with sharing it with me. (Although I flatter myself as your Ideal Reader.)

It is appealing and I think he is colored by all the years he has of successful writing. It’s not easy to make it, yet it is easy since you see all those people who self-publish. And then get killed since people insult them since they don’t put out a polished work. They expect it to succeed and it doesn’t. And I love that King owns up to his distance from the current publishing world since he is such a household name. He acknowledges it and moves on with it, then goes on about his passion since this is his whole livelihood.

They shouldn’t, really. That’s a great way to put it. It’s one of those things I want and maybe need to happen in 2018. This should give everyone a good laugh at our expense. I have plenty of notebooks. They are just empty. Oh that’s great. I love it. I just love how he loves Harry Potter just like us. He’s one of us!

I would probably agree with that. I remember King saying he experienced a lot of rejection when he was young but he still got notes of encouragement. I think that helped him know that he had talent. I never did anything like that. This is true and you are a great writer too. We can hear that from each other constantly and still doubt ourselves. Which I think is normal. I definitely want it to be perfect right out of the gate, but that’s just not realistic. It starts with a first draft which is never perfect. I know he made that a rule but we don’t have to do everything his way. I just wanted to see if you, who would tell me if an idea was interesting or not, liked them. I was thinking of you when he mentioned Ideal Reader. Probably because you are one of the only people who can look at my writing objectively and give me feedback. Not because you are my friend or anything.

I think the hardest part ultimately for me would be trying to get my book published and selling myself. I’m so fucking bad at that shit, but even Stephen King doesn’t like it and he’s had to go through the same things to get published that every author has to do if they want to put their work out there. So maybe one day I’ll get there.

I have some good ideas, you see. Just some. Maybe you should use some of those notebooks, you hoarder. Fill them with a line per day and see where it goes and what you’d like to develop on. He totally is! I don’t blame him for it. He ought to be a Potterhead. A good story is a good story. Doesn’t matter the age range.

He did get those rejections and encouragements. I mean, I think it goes to show that no writer is brilliant the first try. It takes practice to hone your craft. Perhaps that’s why I’m hesitant to read anything written by teens, just because they haven’t had the same time to get great. Not that there’s no exception to that rule, just that I’ve found it’s rough to read early work. I’m always impressed by authors who nail it their first novel, such as King or Mark Lawrence. Aw, well I’m flattered to be your Ideal Reader. Does that make me the Tabby to your Stephen?

Well, the book will sell itself if it’s good. They’ll just put up with the author. No one likes it, putting their work out there, but you need to do it to get somewhere. At least, if you want to get published and perhaps well-known. Think about how posting a prompt is a way to get out, or posting a review on here or Goodreads. It’s scary at first, then you get used to it.

Hey, there is no need for name calling. Though I am totally a hoarder. I have two composition books I don’t think I’ve used. Just a line a day. I need to put that somewhere. I don’t either. J.K. Rowling had genius with Harry Potter. Not so much anything else. I want to re-read Harry Potter one day. Maybe skip Order of the Phoenix. I can’t get through that book.

This is true. Writing is a craft you have to hone by doing it over and over again. I mean, King writes every day. There’s a reason he’s successful because he works hard. And has talent. I do get what you mean about teens writing, but it’s a good time to start writing but maybe not publishing you know? Prince of Thorns is a great book and I agree that it’s hard to believe that was Lawrence’s first book. As you should be. I suppose it does. By the way, the way Stephen King talks about his wife is just great. He loves writing, his children, and his wife. Maybe not in that order, but definitely all three.

That’s a good point. I don’t even want to be a famous author necessarily. I just want my work to resonate with someone. I want to write the books I like to read, mainly books with queer characters. This is a lot less scary than fiction for me. I don’t really care if it’s perfect, but it’s a great way to get my thoughts out.

Says the one who’s called me a heathen at least twice in the chat thread accompanying this review that no one but us will see. You should just write it somewhere, or title your journal 2018’s Line a Day. It’s literally no pressure with that. JK totally had genius with Harry and I am a fan of her Cormoran Strike series, but that’s it. I always reread Harry. Like once a year. Do I need to get into why that book is amazing again?

He also has the luxury to spend that much time reading and writing whereas most beginning authors don’t, unless they start as early as he did. Teens writing is fine. I mean, I wrote when I was a teenager, but that shit shouldn’t see the light of day. Like, ever. And that’s what I like about King. He invests time in writing the idea out, then he reads that first draft after so much time has passed and decides if it’s worth any further time. If so, then he’ll edit. If not, then nothing more. I’ll never get over how good Lawrence is in that first book.

I guess now is a good time to talk about Stephen and his wife. It was just so sweet to hear his anecdotes about her from all those years of marriage. And how much shit she put up with.

Really, that’s what King wanted, too. He wanted some people to like it. By that point, he realized that not everyone was going to like his stuff, so moved on. Hone in on the people who will. And he found that he had a bigger audience. Not to mention that most people in Generation Z (the generation after millennials) are queer or not identifying as only straight. The audience is there and you just have to hone your craft to it, as King has done with horror.

What happened to keeping things private, yo?! No need to rat me out. That’s actually a good idea. I’ll do that. A line a day is totally manageable. No excuses for my lazy ass. Yeah, I haven’t read anything of hers other than HP so I’m just being an ass. I can’t read that many books in a year when there are so many others to read. I’m just not a fast reader. And no, but it’s the reason I can never finish the series.

He did have other jobs along the way, but you are right. His wife works and they don’t have any other children to support so that frees up a lot of time. I agree there. The things I wrote when I was a teenager sucked. Hell, some of the stuff I wrote in my twenties sucked. I do like the idea of putting the first draft away and letting it sit until you don’t recognize it anymore. I wonder how long it took Lawrence to write that. It was amazing.

I mean their marriage is #goals. She told him to get his shit together when he was using drugs and he did because he wasn’t going to lose his family over it. He’s incredibly grateful to her to allow him to work the way he does as well.

It is. He says so near the end of the book and I agree. If someone doesn’t like your book, who cares. I mean it’s easy to say, but it will hopefully reach someone. To me, I think that would be enough. I know that there are so many people who would love to read queer books that are new, I mean I want someone to read my book and it hits them. Not literally, but it impacts them in a good way like so many books have done for me. Yes, yes, everyone is gay now. It’s fantastic. I would rather live in a world where everyone is queer. This is very true and that’s what I plan on doing.

Uhm, drinking happened. No excuses and it’s literally one line. One sentence or less than. That’s all and you’ve written many sentences in this. I’m ignoring your JK comments and moving on.

He made it when his kids were young and he was a schoolteacher, so he really did do a lot on a full schedule. That impresses me, not to mention makes me feel as if I haven’t done enough with my life. I think that you should try it at some point. Give it a try. Even if it’s only a short story. And wow this review is a lot of me encouraging you to try King’s advice. I just realized that.

Not only that, but he respected and cared for her before that. He always honored her opinion and thought of her as his Ideal Reader. He wanted to draw her in, especially since it seems that they have very different styles. From what he listed that she had written, it sounded more like she wrote poetry and feminist geared things. And so writing for her, an audience that was not already into horror, is great. Like me and YA or queer fiction.

If you get to publishing a book, it reached someone. And you can’t reach everyone. Someone will find fault with something. I think that you will be able to find a niche that fits you best with your writing, especially given what I know you have floating around in your head. Even if it’s been done before, that doesn’t mean it can be done better. King proved that with his work, after all. He proved that horror wasn’t boring and all been done before.

3 thoughts on “On Writing by Stephen King

  1. Pingback: December and 2017 Wrap-Up | BW Book Reviews

  2. Pingback: A-Z Bookish Tag | BW Book Reviews

  3. Pingback: First Lines Friday | BW Book Reviews

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