The Ebony Quill

Thoughts, reflections, and whimsies as I experience life

Reading On Writing by Stephen King

So, I decided that as an aspiring writer, it would do me good to read some words of advice from successful published authors.  Thus, I read Stephen King’s semi-autobiographical non-fiction book on the craft of writing.  King presented some thoughtful tips, some inspirational advice, and a lot of surprising ideas that I had never considered.  All in all, the book was the equivalent of a welcoming committee for a newcomer on Planet Writer and it made me feel much more comfortable about just starting out.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from On Writing:

  • “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.”
  • “[Constant reading] offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite, and what is fresh, what works and what just lies dying (or dead) on the page.”
  • “Begin by writing what you love to read.”
  • “What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?  One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose….”
  • “Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling…. Being swept away by a combination of a great story and great writing–of being flattened, in fact–is part of every writer’s necessary formation.  You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
  • “Book-buyers aren’t attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; book-buyers want a good story to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.  This happens, I think, when readers recognize the people in a book, their behaviors, their surroundings, and their talk.” (*Sigh* It’s so true.)
  • “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life….” (It made me wonder, well, what do I know about life….?)
  • “I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” (I was rendered speechless (if that really even makes sense when one is reading) after I read this.  What?  No plotting?!)
  • “…my basic belief about making stories is that they pretty much make themselves.” (He makes it sound so easy!)
  • “I want to put a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them work themselves free.”

Do you have any favorite quotes from On Writing or other novels on the craft?  Any recommendations on other books on writing that I should read?

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4 thoughts on “Reading On Writing by Stephen King

  1. I found a lot of useful advice and perspective from Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”. She can definitely help you with the question of what you know about life. Best of luck to you!

  2. I’ve read several books about writing, but this one reads like everything Stephen King writes. It feels like he’s sitting right there with you, just talking to you, and you understand and believe everything he says. To me, I’d rather take advice from someone like him, who can even make an instruction book entertaining, than from someone else who’s only bestselling book has been the book they wrote about writing books.

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