Thank you, Stephen King
“I believe large numbers of people have at least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened.” -Stephen King
As a content writer in my day job and a personal blogger on the side, I take heed of this advice. In the pursuit of trying to strengthen and hone my skills, I have read a couple of books on writing: ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott and ‘First You Write a Sentence’ by Joe Moran. (There are a few others - unread - looking good on my bookshelf). I am also a free webinar junkie so am regularly signing up to masterclasses hosted by authors or writers.
There is a wonderful global community of writers out there ready to share their knowledge and inspirational tips to encourage fellow writers. (We have to stick together because not many others understand the world - or minds - of writers). It is this community (and viewing an online interview with Tony Park) that introduced me to Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.’
A little bit of backstory will divulge that I have never read a Stephen King novel and the only movie of his I have watched is ‘The Green Mile.’ I am also unlikely to ever read another Stephen King book (I am sure he won’t be offended) as my go-to reading list does not include horror, supernatural fiction or science-fiction genres.
It is here that Stephen King will quickly point out that "the most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting." And that clearly includes mine. 🤦🏻♀️
But one of Mr King’s key pieces of advice in this book is that to be a better writer you must write A LOT and read A LOT and read broadly. This is how he actually said it: “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
So who knows? One of his novels might land up on my TBR list. (Watch this space). 😉
Back to ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.’ I am not sure I could ever write a review that would do this book justice, so consider this more a recommendation. (That may just be semantics, but it makes me feel better and more qualified to attempt a response).
If I was limited to saying just one thing about this book, it would be that it is a page turner (seriously). I couldn’t put it down. Stephen King is a skilful storyteller and wordsmith. I am in awe.
Part memoir and part resource with real examples, there is a thread of humility, raw honesty and refreshing directness that weaves its way from page to page.
As I read, I had my pen and coloured pencils on hand as there is A LOT to underline and highlight. There is also much to reflect on and take to heart. From the first foreword (there are three), you quickly realise you are reading the words, insights and advice of a masterful talent.
One such piece of advice? “The adverb is not your friend.” In fact, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Another? “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
Yet another? “You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
These are just a few teasers of what’s in store if you get your hands on this book.
By bookending his book with memoir sections, you get to know the man behind the writer. The first section - C.V - recounts how his early years and experiences shaped and formed his writing life. The last section - ON LIVING: A POSTSCRIPT - is the vulnerable account of his terrible accident in June 1999 which is nothing short of inspirational (without trying to be).
"Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life."
‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,’ is a book that motivates me to keep on reading and keep on writing. But I will do so with Stephen King’s gentle encouragement at the back of my mind: "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or despair ... Come to it any way but lightly." Thank you, Mr King.
His beautifully arranged words, sentences and paragraphs, especially the paragraphs which, according to Stephen King are “the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than words,” will linger long after the last page.
“Words have weight. Words create sentences, sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.”
I suppose that is what makes Stephen King a really great writer.
Suffice to say, this book will take pride of place on my bookshelf.
Please visit the LIBRARY to read a host of book reviews in various genres.