Book recommendation to aspiring authors: On Writing, Stephen King

Now that the work with my Norwegian novel has calmed down, and is currently marinating in the print before being released to the world’s hungry bookworms, I thought it would be nice to write a little book recommendation aimed at future authors, more or less established writers, or people who generally just have an interest in writing on some level. There might be something to learn here no matter how long you’ve been chewing on the written word.

So, my recommendation is Stephen King’s book, On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft, which originally saw the light of day in 2000, and have since then been published in multiple editions. Mister King is an author who’s written close to (or perhaps even more than) 50 books, and was one of my absolute biggest influences (including the Norwegian authors Ingvar Ambjørnsen and Lars Saabye Christensen) when I started writing as a 16 year old. Thus, early on I read On Writing, and, not unexpected, experienced it as a priceless treasure. Back then I read the Norwegian translation, which is good enough, but when I now more than 10 years later read it in English, it was a quite different experience. King’s humor and fluent language disappears somewhat in the translation, but stands out really well in it’s original form.

Anyway, why is this is a book worth reading for those who wish to write books? Well, the book is mainly divided into three parts:

– The first part is biographical. It’s entertaining, and it’s always interesting to see how successful people actually have managed to squeeze through the eye of the needle and reach the heights of success within their field that they’re now existing on. Yet, my guess is that this section of the book probably is most fun to read for those who already are interested in Stephen King … or who knows, maybe I’m completely wrong. It happens often enough.

– Second part is named “Toolbox”. From now on it is, especially for writers, pure gold in the remaining 2/3 of the book. In this section King walks us through what he deems to be the most important tools an author should have in order to produce a good and correct text, practically speaking. Stuff like vocabulary, grammar, how to avoid bad sentence structure, and get nicely flowing lines and so on is talked about. Writing good dialogue is also included.

I wish to add that when it comes to correct use of language, he recommends the relatively short, but thorough book Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. I have read it, and it’s pretty close to perfection.

– The third and biggest part of the book has the same name as the book itself, On Writing, and is (luckily) the most educational. The times I’ve picked up this book to read it once more I have always skipped all the other stuff and read this specific section over again. Here King discusses how he himself works when he’s writing books, and offers plenty of good advice and tricks. Where other authors often plot down the entire book before actually writing it, he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t care about plot at all. He prefers working with ideas for specific situations that might (or might not, haha) happen. An example is one of his earlier books called Salem’s Lot, where the entire book started with the idea: What if vampires suddenly entered a little, far out town? Another example: What would happen if an enormous dome suddenly fell down from the sky and enclosed an entire town, separating it from the rest of the world? This idea became the novel Under the Dome.

Here’s an example of a recommendation he has for you, if you want to write a novel: When you’ve decided to write, then (to make sure you don’t procrastinate your way out of getting it done) be willing to get a room for yourself where you’re willing to actually close the door (preferably lock it completely), don’t have access to cellphones or internet; be just yourself and your notepad, laptop, or, if you happen to be an old timer, a typewriter. And here you will remain sitting until you’ve reached your daily milestone. To write a novel is a long, time-consuming process. Therefore, he suggests writing a minimum of 1000 words per day. This is something I personally have implemented in my own writing routine, but I usually don’t manage to adhere completely to it over long periods of time. Sometimes I might write 3000 words, at other times only 10.  Sometimes my writing-urge is almost non-existent, and when this happens I force myself to write at least one teeny-weeny sentence, just to dip my little toe in the story in order not to lose the sense of it. This is another thing King mentions, that the longer you take a break from the story while working on the first draft, the more will the characters in the story actually start to feel like fictitious characters, while as long as you write each day and make sure you spend time in the story, the more will the character seem like actual, living people. This is something I’ve experienced, it’s 100% true. The longer I wait, the harder it is to continue the story because it feels like it’s literally dying and disappearing into nothing in my mind. If I work on it every day, it stays fresh and the people in it is alive in my mind when I’m not writing, as if they’re just on hold, but waiting to continue their lives on the page as soon as I sit down to write.

And so on and so forth. I could probably site the whole On Writing book, but I won’t. But as I guess you understand, I can absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to write stories, no matter if you generally like Stephen King’s novels or not. You can click here to get to the book’s page on Amazon.

Have a perfect day 🙂

Happy writing!

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