This is probably Stephen King’s most respected book. In fact, I can’t think of any other Stephen King book that would be considered “respected.” Popular, yes. Wildly successful, sure. Really, really long, no doubt. Plentiful, without question. And did I mention long? How does he write so much, anyway?
But this book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, appears on every list of must-read books for writers. And rightly so.
It’s not so much an instruction book as it is an encouragement book. It’s a successful writer — one of the most successful of all time — telling you that he doesn’t have any magic typewriter and he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive H.P. Lovecraft. (J.K. Rowling, however, was bitten by a mutated J.R.R. Tolkien, but that’s neither here nor there.) He’s just a regular guy who cares a lot about language and story; who thinks that everything he does is doable by anyone with a little bit of talent who’s willing to put in the work.
On Writing is shot through with regularness. From his upbringing (raised by a single mom) to his middle-aged pursuits (he likes to take long walks along the roadside, which, unfortunately, got him run over by a van at one point), King may be the most regular guy who ever lived. And it comes through in his writing. He has a casual relatability that makes him easy to read even when he’s talking about rotting corpses or demons that can unhinge their jaws and swallow you whole.
That Creepshow stuff isn’t normally my cup of tea subject-matter-wise; the only other King book I’ve ever read is The Stand (which I’m proud of myself for being able to lift, much less read). But reading this book makes it clear why he’s had so much success. Whatever he’s talking about, he makes you want to keep turning the pages.