in Books

On Writing – Stephen King

This weekend I read On Writing – A memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – something I should have done 10 years ago. This book is not a work of fiction as you might expect from mr. King but rather it is the accumulation of his thoughts on writing (well!).

I don’t plan on writing fiction, I don’t even read that much fiction (tech history and music biographies mostly) but the rules in this book apply to writing in general. Which is something that I do. You’re reading this blog, right?

I noticed this book is often cited in discussions on writing, as a very insightful work. So I had my eye on it for some time now, and when I saw a second hand copy online, the deal was done.

(Mr. King also references The Elements of Style a lot. Which is that other book that is often cited).


Of course I would urge you to read it yourself. It is “part memoir, part masterclass”, and together both aspects make for an entertaining read. As a personal reminder here are my most important findings from the book. There are probably more but these are the ones I remember. So these struck a chord. (Note: mr. King is a straight shooter.)

  • It is about the story, always. Everything else is secondary.
  • Be honest.
  • Write the first draft with the door closed. The second draft with door open. (Let no-one interfere with the first version.)
  • Second draft = first draft – 10%.
  • Before editing, your first draft has to seem foreign to you. If it doesn’t, it is too soon to start editing.
  • Yes, you need a toolbox. Grammar, vocabulary are important. As is your use of paragraphs.
  • Don’t use adverbs. Don’t.
  • Kill your darlings. Especially with the second draft. Don’t be attached to things you’ve written (e.g. backstory that doesn’t serve the story). If it doesn’t serve the story; kill it (see rule 1). Also: Omit needless words.
  • Don’t get caught up in themes, similes, metaphors. Usually everything is there after the first draft. You might not even know it. You’ll find out when reading the first draft and you use the second draft to sharpen this.
  • It is the writer’s job to “uncover the fossil”. Stories are pre-existing, you are just taking away and uncovering things as a writer. This one might be hard to understand but this is Mr. King’s approach. You don’t make up stories, stories come to you as an idea and your job is to uncover more and more of it (while writing!)
  • Life serves to create art. Not the other way around.
  • Great writers read. A lot. A lot a lot.
  • Write, write, write, write. Get rejected. Write, write, write, write. Keep writing.
  • It is about the story, always. Everything else is secondary.

Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up. – Stephen King

Ik wil hier wat over zeggen!