On Writing by Stephen King: A Review (sort of)

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:
read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things
that I'm aware of, no shortcut.
~Stephen King

I have finished reading Stephen King's On Writing, and I must say, I quite liked it. 
As I mentioned in my (then) current interests post, it was recommended to me by mother along with the words "but I can't really recommend any of his novels." 
I have no particular desire to read any of Stephen King's fiction, for he writes the sort of dark, messed-up weirdness that I know I won't enjoy. Having read his 'memoir on the craft', I do not feel the need to read his novels to study the work of a great writer. 
I have no doubt that Carrie and The Shining were well written, but I don't want to read them. 
Additionally, he speaks of Carrie quite often in On Writing, so I probably know more about it now than I would if I had actually read it. Two birds with one stone (don't throw rocks at birds that is mean). 

Have I babbled enough yet? 

I liked this book. I really did. I haven't read terribly much 'on writing' but I didn't like what I saw. I felt pressured to do things a certain way, and naturally, I hated it. 
But this book, while being FAR more opinionated and rude, was not like that. There were no opinions passive-aggressively couched in timid paragraphs talking about "the way I do things", when what they really meant was "this is how it ought to be done and people who do things differently are idiots". He sort of just said outright "I don't like this, I find it dumb." And often, I agreed.
He has opinions, he has things he hates in books and things he loves, he is quite rude, but he doesn't make you feel like you must do everything his way. Reading this book felt more like having a conversation with King, than anything else. It was a person, telling you what he liked and didn't like, and giving advice. 

The book actually begins with a bit of an autobiography, which was quite interesting. I had the feeling that my highly lovely and easy life is hindering my writing. To some extent, that is true. It seems that all the best writers led very very interesting/hard lives. Lived through extreme poverty, or deathly illnesses, or fought in a war (I'm talking about YOU Tolkien). Someone or everyone in their life died. How on earth am I supposed to be a writer without misery and tragedy? 
I have no idea. Hopefully us lucky, privileged people can write too; from our comfy seats, in our full beds, in our heated houses, with more food than we need sitting beside us, because we just enjoy eating while we write. 

I really can't summarize this book, because one of it's main points is that there isn't some magical key to being a good writer. You could, I suppose, simply say that Stephen King says that you must write the truth. He compares writing to digging up a fossil. Your job is to carefully un-earth an ancient beauty and bring it into the light without breaking it first. There are lots of tools to use, and ways to go about it, and that is up to you. But don't mess it up. Don't dig up one thing and rearrange the bones to be something else, simply because that something else is more popular. 

I do not entirely agree with everything he says. He is not fond of books with lots of description, and I rather love them. He doesn't like to write description, and I do. But nowhere in all this does he make me feel like I am wrong because I like description. He isn't stupid enough to pretend that descriptive books (ahem, LOTR) aren't often wildly popular. He isn't stupid enough to think that his personal preferences should be rules. Although I will say that my 'personal preference' for not having love triangles, should be a rule. Also quirky-relatable heroines. I hate them with passion, but I shan't deny that you can make a good deal of money off of them. 
Don't write for money, write for love (of writing and your story). 

"Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in her or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible."

Ahem. Anyway. I like plotting. I love it. My own book actually began with a character, who did some stuff, and it turned into a plot. Then my story failed, but I loved my characters, and wanted to find their story. Stephen King writes based more on situation than on plotted stories. 
"I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story......I want to put a group of characters....into some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free."
This is not the sort of story I enjoy. And it is not the sort of thing I shall write. Once again, I don't feel condemned. Another point for the book that feels like a person's advice, rather than a textbook. 

As I said, I can't really explain the book. I can't make a synopsis for you. I can't hand over the 'point'. I liked it a good deal. I plan on purchasing a copy (the library is your friend, read before you buy).  I feel encouraged and I also feel that I have a better understanding of the way everything in the writing world works. I have had someone articulate things that have previously annoyed me in books, allowing me to better understand and avoid them in my own work. Passive writing was one. 

Despite being incredibly different in pretty much every way, King and I had a few things in common. And I got someone (a published someone, oh goody) to agree with my dislike for any book which says 'in the tradition of such and such'. It's nice to feel vindicated. 

If you are a writer-person, this is definitely worth reading. However, there is a good deal of language. And references to things which many people might feel uncomfortable reading about. He likes horror stories. He has very little filter. His life was not the sort of cushy, clean life that I enjoy, and he isn't prim and tasteful when he writes. 
The book is good. It is worth reading, despite its objectionable content. 

"For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room....in 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study in the rear of the house. For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind....
A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been....I got another desk–it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk....I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about...and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job.... 
It starts with this: 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-system for art. It's the other way around."
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