Writing Advice from Stephen King

Years ago, before kids and before I got truly serious about publishing my writing, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s at-that-time brand new book, On Writing. Always a fan of his fiction, I figured he had to have some useful words for me. And he did.

Then of course, there was marriage, and kids, and moves, and divorce, and more moves. In the process of all of this, books were packed and unpacked and packed and unpacked, and in the shuffle, On Writing got buried in a tub of books somewhere in storage. It hasn’t come up for air in years.

I really wanted to read it again, though, so I went on a hunt. I was looking into buying another physical copy, but that felt wasteful (using up more paper when I already have a paper copy). I thought about buying it for my Kindle, but it seems it’s more expensive sometimes than the physical copy.

Realization dawned a couple of weeks ago and I found a digital copy of it at the library. I borrowed it and downloaded it to my Kindle and spent the last week or two reading it. I stayed up until midnight the other night finishing it.

As I remembered, there was some helpful advice in the book. But what was most helpful to me wasn’t so much the technical advice (use proper grammar, write what you know, etc.), but the life stuff. The stories of his childhood, high school and college years, early married life and writing with children underfoot.

The reminder that even a well-known author once wrote under circumstances very similar to my own (kids, responsibilities, fitting writing in around so many other things that are just as important if not more so), was a great reminder that what I’m doing is worth it. Learning how he sets his goals for writing (2,000 words per day; not far off from my own at 1,667) and seeing that he doesn’t do things so much differently than I do (even though he’s “made it” and I’m still trying to) was a refreshing reminder that it’s not about doing it a specific way, it’s about just doing it.

I have a decent collection of other books about writing on my Kindle, as well. I plan to get to all of them in time. But something about On Writing just resonates with me, calls to me, reminds me that it’s not always always about the technical stuff. I guess that’s just what I needed right now: a reminder, rather than a how-to.

If you’re a writer, what are your favorite books about writing? Are they technical, advice-geared how-to type books? Or are they more like On Writing? If you could recommend one book about writing to an aspiring writer, what would it be and why?

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