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On Writing Stephen King Book Review: Best Non-Fiction Book

This is a memoir by American author Stephen King that describes his experiences as a writer and his advice for aspiring writers. The book was originally published in 2000 by Charles Scribner's Sons.

On Writing

On Writing

On writing as the name suggests is Stephen King’s advice on writing. This is a great pick for other writers looking to gain inspiration, and what better way than to hear from one of the best in the industry!

  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st edition
  • ISBN-10: 1982159375
  • Release date: June 2, 2020


On Writing are part biography and part how-to. Stephen King writes about his childhood and young adulthood, relating stories that made him the writer he has become. Stephen King then moves into the mechanics of writing, offering advice and insight into a successful career that has worked so well for him but remains distant for thousands of others. On Writing is a poignant, educated, and inspiring book, a book that is sure to help hundreds of struggling writers and motivate still others who picked up the book, not for inspiration, but curiosity.


  • Engaging Narrative and inspirational journey
  • Helpful and cheerful anecdotes


  • Sudden and inexplicable jumps from one story to another
Ease of use

The details

Stephen King is among the world’s best-selling authors. He turned out one or two novels a year for over twenty-five years, bringing his total of novels, short stories, screenplays, and even comic books to over forty. His previous books include Bag of Bones (1998), Hearts in Atlantis (1999), and Storm of the Century (1999). Stephen King’s 2000 memoir, On Writing, details King’s formation as an author and provides writing advice. The memoir is divided into five sections: ‘C.V.,’ ‘What Writing Is,’ ‘Toolbox,’ ‘On Writing,’ and ‘On Living.’


In ‘C.V.,’ King provides a curriculum vitae describing how he was formed as a writer. He begins in his early childhood and describes his life with his mother, Nellie, and older brother, David. King’s father is not in the picture, and the family moves around frequently and never has much money. King begins writing as a young child, first copying content from comic books then moving on to original material. He begins publishing work in magazines during his teen years. It isn’t until he writes Carrie that he gains significant financial success as a writer. King marries Tabitha Spruce, and they have three children. This section also describes King’s experience with alcohol and drug abuse. He gets sober in the 1980s, after an intervention from his wife. Just like C.V., there are four more sections to this memoir. The book focuses on the experiences and inspirations of the stories that came from King’s amazing storytelling. The book feels relatable and never lags the interest of readers, turning page after page until it’s over.


The book majorly focuses on the following ideas: Most people have at least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened with practice. The writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the readers. Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. The book is helpful for an upcoming writer who hasn’t published a word yet, or book savvy person who wants to know the journey of a Novel.  


In the first part, CV, King tells the reader his life story. Unlike other biographies where the author tells everything from beginning to end, King honestly says that he cannot remember everything. Instead, he offers the reader little vignettes from his life, skipping years here and there as need be. By the end of it, though, King has told his readers how he became a writer and what inspired him (his horror influences, though, are more clearly presented in 1981’s Danse Macabre). Here King is perhaps more ‘honest’ than in the section about writing itself. The reader sees over and over again how King escaped poverty by writing. In the section ‘What Writing Is,’ King compares writing to telepathy, in which the author must transmit information to the reader. He asserts that it is all possible, and sets the stage for the ensuing section, ‘Toolbox.’ Here, King provides practical advice to the reader about the process of writing. Each writer should have a toolbox containing the basics of vocabulary, grammar, and style. The next section, ‘On Writing,’ delves deeper into the stylistic elements of writing beyond the fundamentals. King details his writing practice, which consists of writing behind a closed-door every morning. He broaches the topics of plot, story, character, dialogue, theme, sensory detail, pacing, and backstory. Finally, he discusses the process of revision, research, writing seminars, and publication. The fifth and final section, “On Living: A Postscript”, discusses the accident in 1999 in which King was struck by a van while walking down Maine State Route 5. In the United Kingdom paperback version, a short story by Garret Adams entitled “Jumper” was included at the end of the book. The story won the On Writing competition. The fifth and final section, “On Living: A Postscript”, discusses the accident in 1999 in which King was struck by a van while walking down Maine State Route 5. In the United Kingdom paperback version, a short story by Garret Adams entitled “Jumper” was included at the end of the book. The story won the On Writing competition.

Ease of flow

‘On Writing’, as its title suggests, is King’s book on how to write. King has split the book into two parts; in the first, he narrates the story of his life in a series of vignettes to describe how he became the author he is today. As the narrative progresses, King shifts discuss his fascination with horror films, his nascent writing attempts, and his moving account of selling his first novel, Carrie. The second part of the book is devoted to the actual mechanics of good writing, and King offers advice about various topics, including voice, grammar, and strong storytelling. Overall the book is amazingly simple to comprehend and at the same time covers the overall field of writing skills.

Final verdict

‘On writing’ is an immensely helpful and illuminating book for any aspiring writer. Stephen King suggested that writing is a part of life that should not be the centre of life, but support to it that all writers should embrace. Writing should be about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy. Overall those who want to know the thought process, inspiration, and insight behind King’s stories and success, should pick up a copy.

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