On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King has become well-known in the literary world for two things: creating realistic, believable, and down-to-earth characters, and putting said characters into horrific situations (some of which may or may not involve a killer alien clown). While King talks extensively about his take on the horror genre in his 1981 book “Danse Macabre,” it was not until 2000 that King wrote about the craft of writing itself. Revered by readers and writers alike, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” serves as both an incredibly useful tool for aspiring writers and an insight into how the author himself came to be.

King notes in the second foreword of the book that most books on writing are terrible, because “fiction writers . . . don’t understand very much about what they do – not why it works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad.” As such, instead of writing a “how-to” book on writing, King focuses on his own experiences, from writing his first story at the age of six, to the alcohol-and-drug-addictions that almost ruined his marriage. In a later chapter, he even writes about his nearly-fatal accident in 1999, when he was hit by a van. While King does devote a section of the book to advice for writers, he does so in a way that most readers can easily understand. Most of his advice in the chapter revolves around the basics of writing: grammar, punctuation, usage and word choice.

As a Creative Writing major, I rely heavily on the lessons found within “On Writing.” As one of King’s Constant Readers, however, I adore his ability to make even the most unusual and frightening circumstances (both real and fictitious) seem as if they could happen to anyone. When I hear academics dismiss Stephen King’s work for being nothing more than “popular literature,” I often wonder if any of them have even heard about this book. If anything, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is perhaps the most valuable piece of literature for any writer, whether professional or amateur, and an equally entertaining story for the average reader, as well.

Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” can be found in Penfield Library, under the call number PS3561.I483 Z475 2000.

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