Any writer who cares about craft will enjoy “On Writing”, the style guide memoir Stephen King published in the millennial year.

King knows how to get and keep the attention of his reader. I read “On Writing” so quickly, you’d think someone was racing me to the finish. King covers his struggles with alcoholism, insecurities, confidence and hero worship between nuggets of writing wisdom.

Simple Sentence Creation

My favourite quote concerns simple sentences. You’ll find it on page 121.

Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice. The simplicity of noun-verb constructions is useful-at the very least it can provide a safety net for for your writing.

Writing Process

About halfway through the book (page 209), he compares Kurt Vonnegut’s writing process with his own. Both of them sound like torture to me, but he specifically mentions that not all writers follow the same routine.

With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names os my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.

Reading Suggestion

King finishes On Writing with three pages of “the best books he read over the past three or four years” (ie from 1996-2000).

I highly recommend the only nonfiction title I knew from that list: Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods.


Tracey Arial

Unapologetically Canadian Tracey Arial promotes creative entrepreneurship as an author, cooperative business leader, gardener, family historian and podcaster.

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