29 January 2015

On Writing, by Stephen King (Audio Review)

Clearly this is a Stephen King month of books for me. With Mr. Mercedes a couple of weeks ago, On Writing now, and Bag of Bones queued up on my iPhone for my daily drive to the Mayo Clinic to receive radiation targeted at that son-of-a-bitch breast cancer's random floating cell, I'm assured that the reading slump I experienced a while ago is barely visible in the rearview mirror.

On Writing makes me nervous to write this review, though. It also makes me want to go back through anything I've ever put together and EDIT. I've learned a lot listening to King narrate his book, and the most important thing is to not write a lot of crap. Meaning, don't say in ten words what you can say in half of that. Cut it down. (Fans of The Stand or It might raise an eyebrow on that, but you can't tell me that those bajillion pages aren't filled with the greatest characters and story ever and that each word is worth it.) The fluffy extras on a first draft more than likely just amount to a lot of nonsense. Write the story and stick with the first word that comes to mind, don't run to the thesaurus to find a "smarter" word. And for the love of God, stay away from the adverbs! (She cried mightily. Just kidding.)

Part memoir, part writing guide, On Writing is a concise overview of all the things that make Stephen King tick when it comes to the craft and the success that the rest of us drool over. With over four decades of brilliant character creations, (Back story, dammit! Give it back story!) memorable tales, and a legacy that will never die, Uncle Stevie doesn't let us down yet again on what many might think could have been the driest topic he could have written about. But whether it's how he started out in the trade, his ongoing love affair with his wife of forty-some years, advice on an agent, or the accident that came close to ending his career and his life, King keeps the reader/listener thoroughly engaged and many times completely fascinated. And the one fact that cements King's place in the history books? He's not a horror writer at all, he's just a writer, and a damn good one at that.

This is one of *the* books to keep on a writer's shelf; I'll at least keep it on mine. Regular referencing and notations will likely be the thing to do if you have this. And the one piece of advice that sticks with me? Don't let others read your work as you're writing it. It makes no sense to let them see those five pages you think are world-altering. What if they don't like it? Holy hell. Whether or not they praise or criticize, it's really never healthy for others to take a peek. That slight derailment could mess you up. Close the door. Let your words come. No distractions.

Don't despair when you learn King is the narrator, as so many other authors may have been unsuccessful with voicing their own stories. I've always shied away from author-narrated audiobooks, too, but of course it makes sense that King would do it here. And he does a phenomenal job voicing his own work. He was at the right tempo and tone, and I found it thoroughly agreeable. (Because of this, I was convinced that Bag of Bones would not be ruined by an author's voice; so far, so good, too.)

And the absolute most important thing other than to read a lot? WRITE. Write a hell of a lot and always with that damn door closed.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this through my Audible.com membership. Click here to listen to an audio sample.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: 10/4/00
Audio Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
Narrator: Stephen King

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The Stand, The Dark Tower, It, The Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know? So here you go, click here to visit this cool author's official website.


  1. I purchased this at a library sale last year, but think I'd like to hear King read his own words. Might have to use an audible credit soon!

  2. This was the only King book I'd ever read until a few years ago (woo hoo for the Standalong!) I read it my senior year in high school and loved it to pieces.

  3. I, too, read this book a while back ... bet it was interesting hearing him read it ... your review made me return to the post I did on it to compare styles of writing. Everyone's writing 'voice' is so different! Made me think about the writing process all over again.

  4. A modern classic. I recommend it to everyone. Really sound writing advice. I have a student taking an independent study course with me—he's working on a novel. I told him to read this book, and he devoured it.

  5. I read this a long while back and loved it, Natalie, even though I'm not a big Stephen King fan normally. Still, I think he is a remarkable man, probably a genius.

    You're undergoing radiation? Not very pleasant, but necessary to do away with a 'random floating cell' as you put it.:) I went through breast cancer myself a few years ago. No radiation, but I did have a mastectormy and underwent chemo for almost a year. Lots of laughs. But what the hell - here I am.

    Sending you a giant hug, Natlaie. Keep your chin up and remember: anger is good. :)

  6. Sold! I've been wondering if this is something that I need to read; you've convinced me that I do!

  7. I need to read this one yet. Hope you are doing well. *hugs*!

  8. This was the first book that I've read this year and I loved it. I can't believe I didn't listen to everyone when they told me it was one of the best writing books out there.
    And I am sorry, feel better!

  9. Bag of Bones is my fav so far of King, enjoy! He is in my top 10 authors, I'll have to get this book.

  10. This is such a fun book and referenced by everyone, it seems. I have to say I have been on a King thing for awhile lately, too.

  11. Really interested to read this review - I've had this book on my wish list for a while. You did well absorbing this via audio - I think this is one I'll need to sit marking up with a big yellow highlighter!!!

  12. Thinking of you at this time, Natalie.

    I liked On Writing, too. At first I wasn't sure about the folksy style but then I loved it!


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