Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft By Stephen King

When a friend, whose opinion I value, asked if I’d read Stephen King’s book about writing (and told me she thought it was good), I knew I had to read it. Now I wish I hadn’t.

1. I started out loving On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, but the further I got into it the harder it was to finish. I finally just skipped to the end to hear about his terrible accident in 1999 (he was walking on the side the road, was hit by a van, and nearly died).

2. I listened to the audio version, read by King, whose whiny voice was so irritating that it made me want to hurt someone.

3. His brother John Elder Robison’s stories about their childhood in his book, Look Me In The Eye, were more interesting than the autobiographical stuff that King shared in the first half of his book. I should add that saying that Robison’s was better than King’s is like saying that liver tastes better than smoked oysters. Both are hard to stomach.

4. When King got into talking about the craft of writing, he turned into every bad teacher I ever knew: condescending, arrogant and mean. I’m sure there were some good lessons in there, but between the whiny voice and the attitude they were difficult to absorb.

5. It felt like Stephen King was saying that anyone who doesn’t write like Stephen King is a hack. I don’t believe there is any one way to write well anymore than there is any one way to sing well.

I liked Stephen King’s writing a lot better before I read this book.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, your disdain for this book affirms my faith in writers who know (by practice) that everyone approaches differently the process of creating meaning on the page (or computer screen). King is so proscriptive and didactic in telling over and over again how He writes and recommending that it's the best (and only)method.

    Please, just because he produces detail laden drivel, doesn'[t mean his work is good. It just means he has more interest in writing a story than concern for the reader's experience in following it.

    King assumes that the reader has no imagination so must be given all the detail--very condescending, if you ask my opinion.

    By comparison, read the parables, the lovely sparse and "unfurnished" Biblicaal stories Jesus used to teach (and, I emphasize this is a comment about writing style/not religion). That's some good work and, as a writing teacher (and picky reader), I'd much prefer to read one page of a parable than a tortured, over-written piece by Stephen King. Jane