Review of Steven King’s novel “On Writing”

Staff Writer Rachel Jacobsen dives deep into Steven King’s writing, and how his book “On Writing” can help influence new writers down their creative path.


Photo by Rachel Jacobson

The cover of Stephen King’s book “On Writing”. This book was published in 2000.

By Rachel Jacobson, Staff Writer

     Say there’s this idea floating around your head: no matter what you do, the little voice of the idea just won’t stop begging to be put onto paper. To satiate that idea and make it go away, you decide to write a book. Question is, how do you start? Stephen King, publisher of about 61 books, attempts to answer this question in 288 pages through his book, “On Writing”.

     The first half of King’s “On Writing” is an autobiographical tale of his life. He discusses many things about his childhood, from how he started writing by copying comic books in the first grade, to being an editor for his high school’s newspaper. He also talks about the beginnings of his writing career. The first short story King wrote that got any attention was called “Happy Stamps”. He sent it to “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine” and, while he got another pink rejection slip he could add to the collection pinned to his wall, he also got a note: “Don’t staple manuscripts”. In addition to detailing his first writing experiences, he describes his family situations with his mother who was always “fine”, his brother with an IQ of about 150-160, and meeting his wife Tabby in his creative writing class during college. He describes his wife as making him feel “both antsy and exhilarated”. All of this history showcases how he became the writer he is today. 

     The second half of the book gives his audience tips on how to write their own books and get their start in the writing profession. He first details what’s in your toolbox to write your book, including grammar things like vocabulary at the top, grammar in a shelf, and the danger of badly using adverbs (like I just did). After you get all your tools together, he gives the reader tips on how to get started. The first, and what King considers the most important step to writing, is reading a lot and writing a lot. He goes into detail on revising the pieces that were written, he recalls a tip he received from a rejection slip on another story back in the day. He advises new writers to take 10% out of the original draft. 

     There are millions of books in the world- starting your own can be quite daunting. Reading King’s novel “On Writing” could provide potential writers with the confidence to start their project or help those wondering if this is the life they want to follow.. He tried to keep it short, under 300 pages, and covered as much as he could, but found that it was mostly intuition that led him down his career path. If writing a book is a potential turn on your road, then this book will be worth the read. If not, it might still be worth the laughs with Stephen King’s spectacular sense of humor. 

     The path of the writer, one that Stephen King has paved all his life, has helped him through many events in his life. The joy that it brings him could not be replaced by any other and writing for his Ideal Reader (or IR, as he calls it). He seems to understand that his potential writer audience could find the same joy that he has found through his wife, Tabby. They can’t find it if they’re after money or fame. Because really what being a writer is all about, “Getting happy, okay? Getting happy”.