I’ve read two books by Stephen King: Christine, a novel about a jealous Plymouth Fury, and On Writing, King’s combination memoir/teaching text. I read Christine because my husband had it in the house. On Writing came into my hands because writers I admire claim it’s “the best book on writing ever written.”
Inside I found many of the directives conference speakers and writers’ groups expound. King calls them his toolbox. Two of the best—because they are two of the most abused by new and even professional writers (at least in the first draft)—are to kill the adverbs and avoid passive tense. A decent vocabulary is important but King’s cardinal rule is to “use the first word that comes to your mind if it is appropriate and colorful.”
I like to think of it as: don’t use a five dollar word if a nickel word will do. The point of writing is to communicate and if people can’t figure out what you’re talking about you failed to communicate.
King prefaces the section on writing with an entertaining recap of his early efforts to pen and sell his work. Some of his childhood experiences may also have contributed to his particular twist on life. King ends with a frightening review of his 1999 injuries and recovery after being run down by a blue Dodge van on a two-lane road in Maine. Both memoir sections are cleanly written, humorous (I laughed out loud) and at times self-deprecating (always a nice touch).
All I know about Stephen King’s writing is that it’s spooky, chilling and creepy. How do I know this after reading only one book? Advertising. Not being a fan of the scary stuff, I was surprised, upon closing On Writing, to feel I really liked this guy. I should read some of his books.
At least a quazillion novels, short stories, comic books, novellas, screenplays and essays are listed from A to Z on his official website.