Stephen King’s On Writing… A Memoir Of The Craft

WRITTEN BY Mike Cottmeyer

My wife always tells me that I am really hard to buy for. Why? Because I tend to go out and get the things that I want or need… and when I don’t, I am pretty particular about what I want… things like make, model, and color matter to me. She had all but given up when a year ago I decided I had to have a Kindle book reader. I told her that it wasn’t something that I’d buy for myself, at least not yet, and that it might be a good thing to get me for Christmas (wink, wink).

Well, she came through and I haven’t been able to get my nose out of it for the past four days. It was well worth the wait. The first book I downloaded was Stephen King’s On Writing. I used to be a huge Stephen King fan but haven’t read any of his stuff in years. To be honest, I am not even sure how I found On Writing, but given the fact I am embarking on a rather large book project this year, the title caught my attention. The book is an interesting mix of autobiography, personal retrospective, and tips on how to become a more effective writer.

If you are the least bit interested in writing… I think this one is a must read.

While the book is not long, and it isn’t deep when it comes to advice, there was one key takeaway that I want to share with you guys. Toward the end of the book, after we got through King’s opinions on passive voice and the overuse of adverbs, he talked about how he tries to cut the first draft of his books in 3 months. 3 months! Have you ever read a Stephen King book? Most of them are really, really long. How could you do an entire first draft of a novel in only 3 months?

The general idea is that he spends those three months focusing on telling the story. He doesn’t get hung up on plot or symbolism. He doesn’t worry about dangling characters and making sure the dialog is exactly right. King wants to tell the story while it is fresh in his mind and while he feels a strong connection to the characters. The second draft he goes back and tightens everything up. He’ll look at how the plot emerged and reinforce it. He’ll look for the symbols that emerged and reinforce them too.

The idea is that the first draft is about telling the story, the second draft is about making sure it is an internally consistent, well written book. Funny… sometimes all you need is a little permission to start. When I look back toward the end of 2010 and Dennis and I have pounded out 150,000 words… we might very well owe Mr. King a credit for helping me get out the first 5000. Again… it was a great book for any aspiring writer… it almost had me wanting to go off and write some fiction… it was that good.

So… the Kindle was a hit… very inspiring… and I am very thankful for my wife getting it for me. Thanks Kimi!

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2 comments on “Stephen King’s On Writing… A Memoir Of The Craft”

  1. Scott Duncan

    I have this book. I agree, it is a good one.

    Overall, his advice, and that of many others, seems to me to boil down to "Don't edit yourself too soon."

    This has always been my problem in writing having been an English major and, especially, a teacher (and corrector/editor) of student essay writing. It's very hard for me not to see the potential/necessary edits as I am writing. This slows me down.

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