Audiobook Pick of the Month: On Writing by Stephen King

10569From the publisher: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Why I LOVED it: I’ve got a stack of writer’s reference guides on my shelf, and this one is – by far – the most inspiring. I have always admired Stephen King’s God-given talent for storytelling, but now I have a deeper appreciation for his work. This book isn’t about writing and selling books per say; it’s more about writing with joy and authenticity. This quote from the tail end of the book pretty much explains it all.

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

On Writing is also somewhat of a love story between King and his wife, Tabitha. The first half chronicles his early years as a fledgling writer, including that fateful day when he fell in love with Tabitha in a creative writing class.  He was mesmerized by her lyrical poetry and it was love at first sight. Oh swoon! Does it get any more romantic than that?!? Stephen King fans have a lot to thank Tabitha for supporting his writing even while they were on the verge of collecting food stamps. She also saved Carrie from a landmine. Who knows what would have happened if his first bestseller never came to be?  Throughout the book, he waxes poetic about his literary soul mate, and it just made me love him more and more!

This book is not, by any means, a quick writer’s reference guide, but he does throw in some of the most valuable writing tips. One crucial piece of advice: If you consider yourself a writer, you must be an avid reader. I wholeheartedly agree that those who rarely read have no business writing.

 “Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

Also important: You must write for yourself. If you’re trying to please others – or to just make money – you should find a different path to notoriety.  

“If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.” 

And whatever you do – stay away from those darn adverbs! Adjective modifiers are for lazy writers – and Stephen King hates them with a burning passion.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.” 

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Ignore the naysayers and keep pushing forward.

“I have spent a good many years since―too many, I think―being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” 

The narrator: Who better to narrate this book than Stephen King? While listening to this book, I closed my eyes and imagined myself sitting across from the world’s greatest horror writer and learning the ropes from the dark master himself! My only complaint is that I can’t highlight or bookmark an audiobook, so I’m going to have to buy the hard copy as well. This is definitely a book that I will revisit often.

Summed up in three words: Inspiring, authentic, fascinating.

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