A Review of ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King

All cards on the table, I’m not a Stephen King fan. I’ve only read one of his books (The Dark Tower), and I didn’t really love it so I didn’t continue reading. This is a mildly controversial opinion because King is such an influential author in the F/SF area. For years I never really hunted this book down as a result. ‘On Writing’ is decently famous (I’ve seen it recommended a ton), so it took one final shove to get me across the finish line to try it out.

This was pretty good! I liked it more from an autobiographical perspective as opposed to a ‘how to’ advice sort of thing. If you’re like me and want to read some hard advice on how to write, this book contains some. I liked learning the stories about how King came up with his ideas for ‘Carrie’ and ‘Misery.’ However me learning those stories didn’t really give me insight in the secrets of being a good author.

That said, I did find some of King’s advice invaluable. His advice to always be genuine with what you’re writing is something a good author should always aspire to. I also liked his suggestion that authors should use themes as diagnostic tools in storytelling/writing to help discover problems deeper in the text; he really helped put words to some ideas I’ve been struggling with for a while.

As a reviewer, if you want to read this I suggest you go in with the right sort of expectations. If you want an in-depth ‘How to Write’ sort of book, this ain’t it. This book is a hybrid of King’s autobiography and writing advice, and is really good at being both.

Note: the last section of the book is advice from King on how to get published. His advice is twenty+ years old by this point, and outdated.

  • For example of what’s outdated, he says you need to send in paper copies of your manuscript/query letter. I don’t think paper copies has been *a thing* in the publishing industry in 25 years.
  • He also doesn’t discuss self-published books. This makes sense, because this was written before the indie publishing boom. But if this book were to be re-released today, it would have to cover that topic.
  • He does include some good advice (such as agents/editors shouldn’t ask you for money).

STARS: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS (5 stars=perfect, 4 Stars=Great, 3 Stars=Good, 2 Stars=Fun but Flawed, 1 Star=Not Recommended)

GRADE: A Mixture of Stephen King’s Autobiography and some writing advice, exploring how his personal experiences influenced his work

Overall Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)


Genres/Tagwords: Writing Advice, Memoir, Nonfiction, Autobiography

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

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