On Writing is part memoir and part advice on writing (and reading).
This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.
- Second Foreward
I've gained a better appreciation for King over the years as I've heard of his support and advice to young writers.
His popular success has also been a bit of a curse, as critics dismiss his work from the category of 'literature". I love his short stories and ability to hold a reader's attention.
The memoir portions of the book come across as honest. He makes no apologies about his working class background, or about his struggles with alcohol and addiction. He also cautions against deliberately turning toward a genre simply to make money. "It's morally wonky, for one thing - the job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story's web of lies, not to commit intellectual dishonesty in the hunt for the buck. Also, brothers and sisters, it doesn't work."
Stephen King recounts in vivid detail when he was struck by a car in '99 and seriously injured. "It occurs to me that I have very nearly been killed by a character right out of one of my own novels. It is almost funny."
Frank, direct, and full of great advice.
One of his first editors advised, "When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story... When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story." Or, as King rephrased, "write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open."
King says he takes a book with him wherever he goes, "The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms are made for books - of course! But so are theatre lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone's favourite, the john."
The first edition ended with a recommendation of 100 books, the second edition with another 80. I was pleased to see Margaret Atwood (Oryx and Crake), Sara Gruen (Water for Elephants) and Yann Martel (Life of Pi).