Every time I sit down to start this Blook Report, I struggle to find the words to adequately explain how much information is stuffed inside of On Writing and the significance of what it means to me. As you all know, it took me an extra week to read this book, and I’m glad that I took the time to really chew on it. I wish that I could be Stephen King, reading seven or eight books a week as a “slow reader”. But instead, I pored over each page of his book, making notes and dog-earing resonating passages.
In addition to writing information, you get to learn about the mechanics of how Stephen King writes. Not only with regard to his personal life, but the physical how it happens. He goes into detail about his writing environment, the process of writing with the door closed, and then open. He talks about the elements of style that he likes and dislikes, and offers some colorful phrases about the things in writing that irritate him.
My greatest takeaway from this memoir was the idea that “there is a huge difference between story and plot. Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.” Instead of writing plot-driven novels, King asks himself the ever-popular question: what-if? What if a mother and son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo) Growing up, I was told to avoid what-if statements because they could lead down a whirling thought-spiral that could last days or weeks at a time. But reading this put my worries in a different perspective.
Instead of shying away from the strange and unwarranted what-if thoughts, if I embrace and validate them, I open myself to a world of stories that I never would have imagined. I think for a while, I forgot that plot is not what drives a story: it’s the story and the characters that make up the plot. They plod along and do what they are wont to do, and it is my job as a writer to share their story with the world. Creating a fixed world in which all of their emotions, thoughts, and actions are controlled means that the vibrancy of the characters is dimmed. By allowing them to grow and thrive organically, I can honor them in the way I meant to in the first place.
I think reading this book reminded me of why I wanted to become a writer in the first place. I want to tell the stories that I see in my head, not just create plotlines that I think will sell. To tell these stories is to express myself how I did as a child. The stories I want to tell are important.
And I’m a writer.
I recommend this book to every single creative person who wants to write. Whether you consider yourself a good writer, a mediocre writer, or somewhere in between, this book contains a good deal of knowledge that is sure to either encourage you to do what you want or show you that maybe you didn’t want to be a writer in the first place. Either way, Stephen King gives us a compelling look at his personal life and shows us what it took to become the man that we all know as Stephen King. And so I thank him and give this book what will probably be the only 10/10 on this list.
Buy it. Read it. Share it with your friends. Check it out from your local library. But please, please find a way to get it in your life. You won’t regret it.
Join me next week when I share my thoughts on John Green’s Turtles all the Way Down, and what turtles have to do with anything anyway.