Friday, September 30, 2011

Reading about Writing

So I finally went out and bought myself a copy of Stephen King's On Writing. I devoured it in about a day. (Confession: This is the first book by SK I've ever read. I know! I know! What have I been thinking? I will remedy this fact soon, believe me!)

At any rate, maybe because writing is such a solitary profession, or it could be that a writer's imagination is wired to find "kindred spirits" in books - whatever the reason - I now feel like Stevie (yes, he calls himself that in the book) is my new BFF, wise mentor, and witty grammatical go-to-guy all rolled into one. Observe:

"Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-sytem for art. It's the other way around." (pg. 101)

SK's sage words stand on their own, but he doesn't leave it there. Later on, this warning against letting your writing consume your life will seem to be at odds with a reminder to take what we're doing seriously:

"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement,
hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." (pg. 106)

ON WRITING is full of this kind of brilliance that spot-on names the tension we feel as writers, articulates the challenges of creating stories, and passes out English-teacherish lessons on quality writing. Don't wait as long as I did to give this a read.

And, do share: what other writing books can't you live without?

P.S. Thanks, Stevie! Looking forward to meeting up again when I reread your book.


  1. I've always wanted to give this a go, but because King is a horror writer first and foremost I was reluctant. Sounds like an excellent read though, so I'll pick it up on my next trip to the library :)

  2. I have the mass market paperback of this one, and your cover is so much cooler. It's a great read though. I read it a few years ago, when I was still starting out as a writer, so I should consider giving it another look.

    If you're going to start reading Stephen King, I'll suggest some of his best (or at least my favorite) books:

    The Stand
    The Gunslinger (the whole Dark Tower series)
    The Eyes of the Dragon

  3. I read it too and really enjoyed it. One of my favorites is Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.

  4. i love On Writing. And i LOVE SK. The Stand is in my top 3 favorite books of all time. I've read my copy so much it's falling apart and i' need a new one soon

  5. I remember liking On Writing, too!!
    Like Natalie, I think Plot and Structure is a good one to have on your shelf. Another of my favorites for writing craft in-terms-of-story development is Writing the Breakout Novel (both the book and by Donald Maass.

  6. Yes! That quote on page 106 (about never coming lightly to the blank page) is one of a dozen I copied while reading this book. I am amazed at his discipline.

  7. I'm reading both Second Sight and Writing the Break-Out Novel right now (in bits and pieces) and am finding they're two of the best craft books I've read in a long time.

  8. I'm totally enjoying Second Sight as well. I took Cheryl Klein's Webinar on plot a few months ago--it was great!!

  9. Ditto for all of the above. Maass' "The Fire in Fiction" is also good.

    For kid writers, (and aren't we all still kids, at heart?) I'm enjoying "Spilling Ink" by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter.

  10. I cannot recommend anything! I have never read a writing book--probably should! ;)

  11. As I mentioned in a PM post, ON WRITING is like the Bible for me. So much to draw from that book. Great post.

  12. Loved, loved, LOVED that book. In fact, I'm probably overdue for a re-reading.

  13. I love this book. It's probably the one I've re-read most in my life.


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