And welcome to the first blog post for this new website which focuses on reading, writing and positive thinking to help you write and share your own stories with confidence.
This inaugural post not only relates to reading, but also the book in question is a masterclass on writing. Can you guess what it is? Alright, you’ve probably read the blog post title already!
On Writing by Stephen King (1999) is a memoir/part-biography by one of the most well-known American writers of our time. I, no doubt like many of you, have been exposed to Stephen’s work through film adaptations: IT (which I watched when I was like 12 years old, and I am STILL freaked out by it!), Misery and The Shining, are but a few examples. However, I don’t believe I’ve actually read any of Stephen’s books. So I was so glad when an Italian friend of mine gifted me this book a few years ago – even if it is not one of his ‘typical’ non-fiction books.
On Writing is a book of two halves: the first part (‘C.V’) is a nostalgic look back at the key moments and events in Stephen’s childhood which influenced him as a writer. The second part (‘On Writing’) is a toolbox of ideas for beginner writers to compose and then edit short stories. The book ends with an example short story excerpt with editing notes. This is followed by Stephen’s very own recent reading list, supporting the idea that reading is a great way to boost your writing.
(This is NOT Stephen King’s toolbox. This is just a writer’s toolbox example. Read the book if you want to access Mr King’s tools! Image: http://www.bang2write.com/page/32)
Well, there were many things I enjoyed about this book. Not least being gifted storytelling tips from an expert in the field. I loved the writing advice that was given, especially as those positive words of encouragement are so quotable:
I also liked his suggestion for writing a good first draft – write it in one go. Don’t stop to ask for feedback. Get the first draft done and then you can decide what to do with it. Get it written first without outside interference! I hear that – especially as I have a number of play and short story ideas floating around my mind, which I am destined to forget if I don’t write them down soon!
Finally, I appreciated the brevity of the book – it’s small, making it easy to carry around, and only 388 pages. You could read this in a day if you prioritise your time. Or in a few days if you are just reading it after work.
There’s not much I don’t like except what I interpreted as the dismissal of budding writers joining creative writing classes or groups. Stephen seems to slightly look down on those paths, indicating there is a more natural way you arrive at becoming a successful writer. But I think that very much depends on your definition of success. I think that if creative writing workshops bring you joy, or if you are lucky enough to do a degree in creative writing and you enjoy it – well, just do that. And then do it some more!
Overall I recommend this short, simple, mini-bible on writing well. The stories about Stephen’s childhood are funny and entertaining. And the toolbox of tools for writing well is a practical take-away for everyone: no matter you are a beginner or advanced writer.
That said, here are a few similar books on writing that might appeal to you:
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is possibly the most recommended book for all (beginner) writers. It is written in a simple and straight-forward manner and would appeal to anyone who wants to focus on grammar and style.
Zen In The Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury contains a lot of practical ideas for finding your own original ideas, developing your own unique voice and style, as well as shining the light on the author’s own career.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is a witty exploration of all things punctuation. So if you love playing with commas, semi-colons and full stops – this book is for you!
If you are interested in reading and writing more, why not join the SYSWC community on Facebook where we share interesting articles and run reading and writing challenges to help you boost your confidence.
And if you are ready to take your first steps towards becoming a short story writer, why not join the next SYSWC online creative writing course!