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Long Live the King!

September 4, 2014

Susan Marg

I just finished reading Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s a memoir of sorts, first published in 2000. In the first one hundred pages he recalls stories of his growing up, describing how he became a writer. Actually, King was born a writer, but how he became a successful writer is quite a story, from magazines rejecting his short stories to the  publication of one of his first novels, Carrie. Written in 1973 while King was teaching school and living in a $90 a month apartment with a wife and kids to support, it changed everything.

Jack Torrance's typewriter in the movie "The Shining" based on King's novel. Photo by: China Crisis.

Jack Torrance’s typewriter in the movie “The Shining” based on King’s novel. Photo by: China Crisis.

In the second half of his book King gives a lot of advice about writing, particularly for wannabe novelists. His prime rule consists of four words: Read. Write. A lot.

King reads because he likes to read, but he also notes, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

One of the pleasures in King’s book is that he names names — Charles Dickens, Margaret Mitchell, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, John Grisham, Tom Wolfe, J.K. Rowling, and many, many more through the ages. When he’s discussing style, plot development, character development, dialogue, and symbolism, he gives lots of examples, both from his works, as well as from others. For a book on the tools of the book trade, it’s never boring and surprisingly entertaining.

King also goes into detail on his run-in with a light blue Dodge van in 1999, while he was walking on a country road. The van hit him, and King suffered horrific injuries, including broken bones and a collapsed lung, and endured multiple surgeries. The quick arrival of emergency personnel saved his life. Physical therapy sped his recovery process. Eventually, he began writing again.

With the publication of several short story collections and full-length works, such as Doctor Sleep and Mr. Mercedes, over the past decade, it’s safe to say that he’s back and in fine form.

Are you trying to decide what to read? Do want to improve your prose? Or, are you looking for a pick-me-up? Pick up a copy of On Writing by Stephen King. (Oh, that’s so corny. But apt.)

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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