Book Review: On Writing, By Steven King

I must confess that I’ve never read a novel by Steven King, nor have I ever seen a movie based on one of his works. Horror is just not my preferred genre.
I did, however, find On Writing a helpful and engaging read, abounding in humor and sound advice. For example: “Pace is the speed at which your narrative unfolds. There is a kind of unspoken (hence undefended and unexamined) belief in publishing circles that the most commercially successful stories and novels are fast paced. . .Like so many unexamined beliefs in the publishing business this idea is largely bullshit . . .which is why, when books like Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose or Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain suddenly break out of the pack and climb the best-seller lists, publishers and editors are astonished. I suspect that most of them ascribe these books’ unexpected success to unpredictable and deplorable lapses into good taste on the part of the reading public.”
On his first agent: “He was well into his eighties, unwell, and died shortly after our first correspondence. I can only hope it wasn’t my initial batch of stories that killed him.”
To Steven King “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, end enriching your own life.” Here I couldn’t agree more.
One of the keys to being a writer, according to King, is to be a reader, a voracious reader. Don’t just read good literature, read the mediocre and the bad as well-these latter inform you of what not to do.
An aspiring writer might want to read this book several times, because there are a lot of useful concepts to be absorbed. (Including “refrain from the passive voice”-oops!) I’m still not a fan of Steven King’s genre but I’ve decided to put The Dead Zone on my “to read” list.


  1. Sounds like sound advice, on the whole, though I’ve seen most of it before. The part about pacing and writing for what publishers think is certainly a very good point. I think the kind of people it applies to want perhaps to go into writing for the wrong reasons, but perhaps I’m being overly harsh. People might simply want to write what they think is important and still see it get published, in which case suggesting that what is most likely to be successful is not actually what you might think is helpful.

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