Thank You Stephen King

Stephen King On Writing

Decision made. I AM going to put together a writing class. It’s not starting until the first of the year and I am already so jazzed. I had a dream about it the other night, dreamed about a room piled with people writing, tablets in their laps, scraping away with pens; putting out beautiful stuff as I recall. Oh, that this could happen and I be part of it!

Anyway, a dream might be the beginning, but a dream only goes so far. If a class indeed comes together where do I start?

Fifteen years, or so, ago, when I wanted to learn how to write fiction, I set about to read how to do it. I read Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing, among others. About that time I also stumbled on King’s On Writing. It gave me the creeps and I didn’t pick the book up for a long time. I had read one of Stephen King’s novels years ago and remembered being so traumatized by it I vowed to never read another. I think it was The Shining. Anyway, my feathers were ruffled and my dreams frightful for days after I finished that book. Some time later–the trauma well in the past– I began  to realize how powerful his writing must have been to have such an effect. You can probably figure out why it took me awhile to actually buy a copy of On Writing and read it.

Well, that book became the most important of any of the writing books I ever picked up. It’s funny, it’s pragmatic, it’s clear, and on a really wonderful level it’s personal. His no-BS approach mimicked my own.

I got my old copy out again in a run-up to planning a class, and what King said fifteen years ago still holds a punch. If you’re like me, if you hunger to write fiction and want someone to take your hand and lead you through the impossible maze of doing it, pick up King’s On Writing. It’s a wonder.


PS yesterday I was writing in a coffee shop. A young man at the next table was bent over,  scribbling away on a tablet, gazing up now and then, then scratching away at more. In front of him sat On Writing. I wanted to make some comment about the book, but decided to leave the fellow alone to do his very important work.


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