On Writing

On Writing

A Memoir of the Craft

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Presents the memoir of how Stephen King's life experiences helped him be the author and person that he is today, offering advice for aspiring novelists.
Publisher: New York : Pocket Books, 2001
ISBN: 9781439156810
Branch Call Number: 813.5 K54o 2001
Characteristics: 288 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

Not only a memoir of a writer's life, but also a thoughtful analysis of the art of writing.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Dec 03, 2018

Below I comment only on the part of King’s book that offers advice on writing, not the longer part of the book that is autobiographical. King is an admirer of the grammatical rules of Strunk and White, but is not overawed by them: “They are offered with a refreshing strictness, beginning with the rule on how to form possessives…and ending with ideas about where it it’s best to place the most important parts of a sentence. They say at the end, and everybody’s entitled to his/her opinion, but I don’t believe ‘With a hammer he killed Frank’ will ever replace ‘He killed Frank with a hammer’.)” Note that the first sentence in this quotation is, quite appropriately, in the passive case, which King counsels us not to use. He is too good a writer to be the prisoner of his own rules. English is an uninflected language with a pretty rigid word order compared to an inflected language like Russian, so as King notes, an effort to change word order for appropriate emphasis may come sound stilted or unnatural, even if it isn’t against the formal rules of grammar. King says his professional career was greatly helped by advice that may have come from Algis Budrys, the Soviet-born science-fiction writer: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%.” King believes the revision of most drafts, if it is to be effective, should be mainly geared to deletion of unnecessary words and phrases. King is no substitute for the Fowler brothers or George Orwell as a guide to writing English, but he doesn’t claim to be. Unlike them, he is our contemporary, so virtually nothing he writes is dated. It is a witty, charming book that made me want to finally read one of his bestselling novels.

I found the first half of the book was semi-autobiographical and it was quite interesting to know that Stephen King is very human, and not just some writing machine who is holed up in some dark room writing because that is all he knows. He couldn’t be further from that. The second half is very informative, and I would recommend it to any aspiring writer. (submitted by JO)

Nov 01, 2018

What an unexpected pleasure it was to read this book! I must say I was hesitant to pick it up because I'm not a big fan of Stephen King's novels (not really the genre I usually read). However, it was lots of fun, informative, and interesting. I enjoyed learning about Stephen's curious childhood antics and how his writing developed over time. Great read!

Oct 31, 2018

If anybody has the right to give writerly advice based solely on success, Stephen King is one of them. With so many novels and short stories under his belt, King offers the collected wisdom, both learned and discovered.

The opening half is a look back on major events that helped to shape King as a writer, and you can see how even the little things, things seemingly unimportant or silly, can influence somebody and really leave a mark on them. From silly stories to ones that make you laugh or even cringe, the first half of this book is a treasure trove of personal experience.

The second part of this book offers answers to commonly asked questions. The advice is solid, though I don’t agree with all of it. However, not everybody writes or thinks in the same way, so naturally nobody will agree with every bit of another person’s philosophy.

This book is a fun read as well as an informative one. I suggest it to anybody who has questions about writing. Well worth the time it takes to get through it.

DBRL_JessicaM Sep 04, 2018

VERY different from what I expected. Many authors write books about writing, but King emphasizes memoir in this piece of nonfiction. It really drew me into the pages and I appreciated the time and honesty in his essays. I bought the book for later reference.

Mar 28, 2018

Stephen King's "On Writing" is everything I was hoping it would be and more. As an aspiring writer myself, I have been looking for books about writing by those who are dedicated to the craft itself. "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield has been a great tool already, but when I found out that another Stephen wrote a guide, I knew I had to have it.

King's one part memoir, two parts field guide is smart, instructive, and often amusing. It's full of wise advice from the viewpoint of a seasoned veteran of the work. This is one that I will come back to every once and awhile to glean from. I wanted to read the book cover to cover first. I'll do a deep excavation later. But, here's five things I'm taking away from "On Writing"

1) I've finally read a Stephen King book! (I'm not a fan of creepy stuff...)
2) Love him or hate him, he's carved out a very prominent place among history and literature. This alone earns him the space to share his expertise.
3) The mechanics of general vocabulary and grammar really do matter. The rest of the bells and whistles will raise it, but cannot hold up the foundation. Those simple mechanics have to make up the basis of whatever you write. All else will fail and fall without it.
4) If in doubt, always come back to the story. The characters and their perspective is why people read in the first place.
5) Write with "the door closed" first and foremost. In other words, write for yourself and perhaps a specific person in mind. Your other readers will come along the journey later.

Dec 09, 2017

Inept readers call this a novel; many reviewers totally miss the point King clearly makes at the incept: he tells us how he bacame an author, and even though he had a better backgroud for becoming a successful writer, he tells us we all can do so; and he clearly says few will become great writers. He then describes how we can become at least competent writers. He uses personal illustrations to allow us to see more clearly that most literate people (there are actually very few these days after years of black history in government schools) can become competent writers.

Oct 23, 2017

This novel made me laugh while making me feel more confident as a writer.

Check out my review of "On Writing: A Memoir of Craft" on my blog at:

May 04, 2017

Great insight for writers. Loved it.

Feb 11, 2017

I read it twice, the first time soon after it came out, the second time this week. The first time I recall that I reeled back in horror when he described a verb mood as a "tense," but I've long gotten over that. So, he's not a grammar expert--no big deal. It's not that the basic advice isn't good:

* read a lot -- good and bad books both, as you'll learn from both
* write a lot, and set a production quota and meet it
* critique groups are of limited use and should be avoiding during drafting
* don't revise forever--twice through is good enough
* be dogged in seeking publication

It is good advice, though you can read it many other places for free, online and in books going back fifty years.

But this book is too much about Stephen King and too little about writing to be considered a good writing craft book. And this time, my opinion did not change much. I rolled my eyes at the portrait he presented of the hard-working young writer. Oh the work ethic aspect is good and the doggedness bit is good, and the "present yourself professionally" advice is good. All are requirements, but five publications in the Podunk Review getting the guy an agent for a novel not yet written? Not true in 1999 when this was first published, and laughable today. Perhaps true in 1967...but the publishing world radically changed between then and 1999, and he should have asked someone whose father was not Stephen King how it was going for normal writers. Also, he really slides by the fact that this young writer dude has made $100 in sales over a few years (plus a literary prize payout--and literary prizes almost always have an entry fee, so the imaginary writer might have spent twice that to win the award) while King has made -- well, I don't know, but surely well over over one million times that much. The gulf between them is wide and the chances of crossing it for the imaginary writer dude are near zero. The average annual salary for novelists is $4000/year and genre novel advances have gone down, not up, since Carrie, as difficult as that is to comprehend. It's a bit duplicitous to imply otherwise. As is saying "the money never mattered to me." If he and his wife were still living in a trailer rather than having two "summer homes" on both sides of the same lake, I bet you he wouldn't be still "writing anyway because the money never mattered." The money does matter -- it matters to the bank and power company, but I guess rich people forget that sort of thing. It's a rare person can write for thirty years and make $4000 per year on average and still soldier on. I've met a few, and I applaud them, but I know a lot more who gave up because making perhaps $2/hour seems a little insane after a few decades.

And of course today, self-publishing ebooks has radically changed everything. So this book is almost hopelessly outdated. All of this information is available elsewhere, and there are some terrific craft writing books with detailed and actionable advice, but this isn't one of them. This is pretty much only for people who like Stephen King. It's beloved by them, but I'd bet you it never turned a wannabe into a real writer.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Aug 06, 2015

"Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."
(King, 101)

Jun 13, 2015

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just go to work."

Dec 17, 2013

"... sometimes even a monster is no monster. Sometimes it's beautiful and we fall in love with all that story, more than any film or TV program could ever hope to provide. Even after a thousand pages we don't want to leave the world the writer has made for us, or the make-believe people who live there."

Dec 17, 2013

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Dec 17, 2013

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page."

Jul 15, 2013

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Lumpy694 Jan 23, 2012

stopped at page156


Add Age Suitability
Dec 15, 2015

scottwoods thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Aug 06, 2015

KABuck thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Jul 24, 2012

britprincess1 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MCL

To Top