Stephen King is commonly associated with the genre of thrillers or mysteries. But not all of his books are. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is one of them.

I originally read this book at age 16 as an assignment the summer before my senior year of high school. English was my favorite subject, and having to read a book over the summer didn’t faze me. Besides, I intended to go to college for journalism (which I did end up doing), so I wanted to improve my writing skills.

On Writing is officially billed as a memoir, but it also includes writing tips and tricks based on King’s own experiences, making it a little bit of a hybrid.

The first part of the book is the memoir section. As King writes, “It’s not an autobiography,” (p. 17). Rather, they are bits of memories that he recalls in somewhat random order. He grew up primarily in Maine with his single mother and older brother Dave. The two of them had many adventures growing up, which I could relate to since I have an older brother myself. King’s interest in writing began in childhood when he started making up his own stories, encouraged by his mother and brother. After having some run-ins with the school administration in his writing endeavors, which included inadvertent plagiarism and inappropriate content, they recommended him as a correspondent for the local newspaper. He continued to write and attended college, where he met his wife Tabitha. The years that followed brought the birth of their children and scraping by, until the success of his first novel Carrie, in 1974. King wasn’t afraid to include some personal confessions, such as his problems with drugs and alcohol during some years.

The second part of the book includes tips on writing: spelling, grammar, dialogue, and other basics. As a high school senior, I remember having to do assignments based on this section. King includes suggestions on how to eliminate unnecessary words and lists writing exercises to help practice. One of the most interesting parts was reading where King gets his ideas from. For Carrie, King had gotten the idea after discovering the tampon dispenser in the girl’s locker room during a stint as a custodian He talks about how ideas can come from personal experiences or interests, and how it can’t hurt to combine two ideas together.

A postscript talks about his experience with near death in 1999, when he was hit by a van while walking along a rural road in Maine. I was fascinated by the amount of detail he was able to put into his account, describing the moment he was hit, his injuries and the recovery. I imagine if I was ever in an accident like that that I wouldn’t be able to recall that much detail.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning more about the art of writing and how one of the great authors gets his inspiration from.

In closing, my favorite quote from page 269, “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 and enriching your own life, as well.”

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