So Stephen King set out to write a book he didn’t even really want to write just for us floundering newbie clownfish swimming around in the shark infested waters of the writing world. I’m so glad that he did because it has become my favorite book on writing. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great books on writing from the perspective of the craft, not to mention technical precision. Another one of the best on craft that comes to mind is Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. Of course what serious writer doesn’t have Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style somewhere nearby? If you don’t, and you are a writer, you should, but I digress.
King’s book is special to me because I felt like he really let us into his personal world of writing. He showed his flaws, his unrelenting, raw passion for the art/work, how it got him into trouble, and how it works for him. He talked openly about where he had trouble writing. I never knew that The Stand almost didn’t happen. What? Really? King even goes so far as to include a snippet of his own rough, first draft of another story followed by revisions.
King tries not to get into the mechanics of writing too much although he did include a brief overview. He seems to want to focus on anything but, which is well and good because there are plenty of books and other outlets out there for that purpose. He focuses more on his own process of writing and makes it clear that if you think writing is your thing, you better be doing for the right reasons. You better be doing it because you love it, have to do it, and are passionate about it rather than for fame and fortune, and he’s right. There are plenty of writers out there working a full-time “day job” while they spend any spare time they have hunched over a computer or notepad beating out the stories that are rattling around in their brains just dying to get out. Most serious writers will have the same advice for new writers like me “Don’t quit your day job.” It’s not a dig at a writer’s skills. It’s just a testimony to how hard it is to make a living at it and the big unknown about what will stick and what won’t.
Along with the craft of writing, King has some things to say about the business of writing as well. He talks about how to find the right agent, submitting stories, and dealing with rejections to name a few. He gives us his opinion of what a good pitch letter looks like and shows an example. Once again, real examples make King’s book on writing stand out, open and honest.
Toward the end of the book, King gives the harrowing account of his terrible car accident in 1999 that nearly forced him to retire. I, for one, am glad he chose to soldier on. King is a true writer in every sense and at a time when anyone can self-publish a book (whether it’s actually good or not) King is one of those that still has tremendous pride and passion that shows in the quality of his finished, albeit, creepy products. I’m not saying it’s the definitive end all, be all on writing, but it is definitely worth the read.