On Writing by Stephen King

The Village Vomit and many other important events shaping one of our time’s greatest writers, Stephen King (and a few suggestions on how to become a better writer, too)

On Writing

A Memoir of the Craft

Author: King, Stephen

Link to Amazon
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Publish date: 09/01/2020
Language: English
Pages: 416
ISBN-10: 1 444 723 250

Genres: Non-Fiction, Storytelling

Kill your darlings! -Stephen King

From the Back Cover

Editorial reviews

To begin with, you’ve got Stephen King, a writer so talented in the art of thrill-generation that he could insert excitement into the assembly instructions for a bookshelf. Or, say, a book about writing and grammar. And that’s precisely what King does in On Writing, an improbably fascinating, relentlessly compelling trip through the mind, style, life, and work of one of our greatest popular writers.Hearing this unique combination of anecdotes and insider’s advice told in King’s charmingly nasal voice makes an already insightful narrative even more personal and powerful. If you want to write, this audiobook will quickly become a treasured resource, because it will improve your writing. But even if you have no interest whatsoever in writing, King’s anecdotes and instructions into the art and process will probably make you a better, more informed reader.

Publisher’s summary

Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King


Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Review

On Writing by Stephen King is divided up in two main sections: one, a more personal memoir-ish part and another, more geared towards actual writing advice. The two parts are woven together by giving the reader a history of the author and show how it all started, how it got shaped by many crucial parts to build him up to the writer he is today.

The memoires

First of all, Stephen is very clear that he doesn’t think that everyone that calls themselves writers should, while a lot of people who don’t, perhaps better deserves the title. Writing isn’t something that you can train yourself into becoming, but rather something you have in you from the beginning. Most who try and fail end up writing news articles, etc., which is true also for a lot of the greatest ones as well. Unfortunately.

I did, at first, not really enjoy all the sidetracks about his youth, school years, sadistic ear doctors, and drunken drivers, but as the book went on it was made clear that all those little sidetracks all contributed to him becoming one of the greatest writers of our time. Every single event became an obstacle that, once passed, made him more determined to become better.

The Village Vomit

My favourite story is about his satirical school newspaper “The Village Vomit” that really made a killing with his peers. Not so much with the teachers, who often where the ones being made fun of in the paper. The paper was, of course, shut down by the school authorities and the whole thing became a very humbling experience for the young King, learning an important message about the power the written word hold.

The Writing Toolbox

The most important thing for a writer is to have a great toolbox that consists of a large vocabulary, good grammar, and style.

From the beginning of the book we quickly learn how important stories are to Stephen King. Not just his own stories but all stories. From the early comic books to audio books and always carrying a book if we should find ourselves with some time on our hands. In a waiting room, on a flight, on the bus, in a café, or just about anywhere. Any great writer must also be a great reader!

The importance of reading doesn’t just help us with ideas for structuring our own stories, but it also help us with all of the tools you want in your toolbox: vocabulary, grammar, and style. There is just no writing a good story without a good vocabulary with which you can give the reader ever more subtle hints about what is to come next!

The Writing Process

We all know that Mr King have written a few books and can push out brick books in mere days should he put his mind to it. As it turns out there’s good reason for this. He suggests that any aspiring writer pushes about 2000 words per day, which amounts to a good-sized book in just a couple of months. To achieve this, we just have to follow Stephen’s 4-step plan (taken from memory):

  1. Lock ourselves in a dark room
  2. Put on a cd with your favourite rock band and crank up the volume to max
  3. Hit the keys on the keyboard repeatedly
  4. Do this for as long as it takes to hit 2000 words
  5. No going backsies – just let the story unfold

Do this for every day for a month and you’ll have a book to call your own by then. Once finished, place in your darkest drawer and throw away the key for a couple months. You are not allowed to peek. And don’t tell anyone about it just yet!

After a few months have passed, take out the book and read it. If you like it, give it to a select few you trust to give feedback on your story.


There’s so much more to this book than this and if you’re interested, go read the book itself. Personally, I’m very glad I read it and enjoyed it thoroughly, even though I at first didn’t really understand the point of dedicating the whole first half of the book to backstory. But it is as the saying goes, a good story needs a great backstory!

In addition, I really liked the advice given, to stay true to your own story and don’t follow trends and other such influences, as it tend to show through and give the impression of fakeness. Don’t be fake… (We’ll know)

4/5 thumbs up!