I saw this book pop up on Amazon about seven years ago in paperback and it seemed like a complete no-brainer that I should read it immediately, being a hobbyist author and being a big fan of his (not in a Misery style tie-him-to-a-bed-and-cut-off-his-feet way, honest). I’ve read pretty much all his books, starting with Skeleton Crew when I was about thirteen.
I’m writing this post now because I just read Save the Cat Writes a Novel and while I took some great insights from that book, and in fact strongly recommended it to a fellow hobby-author struggling to finish their debut, after some weeks of inner-turmoil and reflection about how to approach writing my next novel or (more likely) novella, I thought a lot of it conflicted with King’s organic approach and the sage advice I took to heart.
On Writing is half autobiography and half book of advice on how to write. However King is quite clear that it is only biographical as it applies to his development as a writer and only about how he writes. His method or tool box as he puts it might not suit everyone wanting to write stories or novels.
He makes some good recommendations for further reading and is wonderfully entertaining and honest as he divulges his thoughts on the process. The main revelation for me was that he does not plan out his plots before he writes – he starts with some characters and an initial ‘what if’ idea and lets the story develop organically of its own accord depending on how his characters would react to happenings and each other as things progress.
This seems a lot more experimental and jazzy than I would expect from an author who has been accused at times of cranking his books out like a machine bent on the destruction of all tree-life as we know it, and may explain why I find some of his endings a little lacklustre at times. As he is a recovered alcoholic and drug user, his views on the requirement to get stoned or drunk before writing are obviously interesting as is the recounting of when he got hit by a truck and almost died.
Here’s a collection of tips and advice from King covering plot, character, ideas, process and more – his advice is slightly different to what you might hear elsewhere:
Honest, witty, opinionated, humorous and useful, On Writing is a good read for anyone interested in writing or the man himself. For those who just want some quick tips, here’s a much shorter clip (insert tongue in cheek):