Two Takeaways from Stephen King's On Writing

by phil on Sunday Apr 5, 2009 3:17 PM

I'm re-discovering Stephen King's On Writing. I had previously ignored it because in the Amazon excerpts, you start from the first half of the book, which is just a biography. The second half is where the fun is, where he talks about his philosophy of writing. I've just started the book, but I've already taken two good takeaways:

Read what you want to write - Stephen King would count himself a believer in the idea that you can't be a good writer if you're not a good reader. I wasn't sure about this before, but his vote plus my own personal experience seems to corroborate that. When I read lots of fiction, fiction-writing seems to spring out of me. When I read a piece in the New Yorker, I want to write something non-fiction (like how I just read a New Yorker article 10 minutes ago). It makes sense. Wrapping yourself in reading switches your brain into participating in the conversation of that kind of medium.

You can't make bad writers good. And you can't make good writers great. But you can make competent writers good - I think that's some cold, but straight talk. You can't pretend talent isn't a major factor. At the same time, you can't be hopeless and think you won't ever reach a point where you get be publishable. I sometimes measure myself by the standards of the greats, thinking, "Well, my work isn't nowhere near as good as Gladwell, I'll never become a writer," and then I slump in my chair.

I'm only partially through the actual On Writing section, but I want to read the rest of it.


MoirSolace said on April 5, 2009 6:14 PM:

...weird, i just started reading this book last week. its really good, even the first half.

Creative Commons License