Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Writing, By Stephen King



By Christina VanGinkel

I purchased my first copy of this book in paperback format, with dreams that it would reveal the knowledge to take my writing from ho hum to bestseller. After all, who better to give advice on writing, than the king of storytelling himself, Stephen King! Well, it did not make me a best seller, but it is a winner nonetheless. It is also not just for writers. It should be marketed for anyone that wants to be a fly on the wall of someone else's life. So intriguing a story does he weave, with as much gusto as he did with 90 percent of his fiction, that I would recommend this book for anyone that even thinks they want to know a bit more about the engaging person. A person who under the surface ends up a whole lot like the rest of us, as abnormal as a so-called normal person could be! When I came across several copies of this book in hardcover on sale, a year, or so after I first read it, I bought every copy the store had. I donated one to our local library, and gave away the rest to friends and family as gifts. I saved one copy for myself, as I only owned the paperback version. The text inside is identical, but there is just something about the book that you know you are going to reread it again, and again.

The pages of this book unfold starting with not one, but three forewords. Read them, and then jump into the first chapter with the expectations that you are about to be taken with this author on a trip through his memories like no one has ever been able to pull off before or since. The author weaves a story of his childhood with his brother and single mother, though often filled with hardships, never leave you feeling sorry for him. They just offer an honest glimpse at what possibly helped form him into the writer he became.

The book continues to unfold in a chronological order, but not, as he intersperses his memories with how he came to write some of his best sellers ever. From one of his childhood memories of how a doctor treated his infected ear (they lanced it without warning with a large needle, and then did it again!), to where he was when he heard news that a book of his, one his wife had literally taken out of the trash, had sold for an unheard of price. How he never did come to like the character in that book that to the public was 'Carrie', you are taken along with him on the rollercoaster ride of his life.

He does touch on his addictions, and I could possibly understand how this might turn some readers off, but if you want to read the real thing, then that part is as necessary as the rest of the book. I recall hearing that the book was offered in a 'cleaned up version' so it could be read by high school students in some English classes. While I thought it was great that somebody saw the value of what he wrote, I felt a bit sorry for the teens that would be getting only a partial glimpse at what amounts to some of the best advice anyone ever took the time to put down in such a permanent way. In my humble opinion, these glimpses are what make this book so thought provoking in the first place. He could have easily sat back and wrote an ineffective, fairytale look at how he became a favorite of horror fans everywhere, but instead, he wrote a vary truthful glimpse into what amounts to a very normal life.

The book was in progress when he was in a vehicle pedestrian accident, which almost ended his life. He shares with the readers how that accident came to be from his own limited viewpoint, limited in that he tells us how he never had a chance to get out of the way. When I read this book for about the tenth time, my husband had been in an accident that resulted in much of the same injuries that Mr. King ended up with, though what had hit my husband was a tree, not a van. Seeing the pain my husband was in, and how hard it was to do any thing, most of us take for granted on most days, such as sitting down; I had even more respect for Mr. King as a writer, and a person. He related how even though he was in pain, with a bit of clarity and help from his wife, he went back to what he seemed to be here on earth for, to write. At the end of this book, Mr. King also take the time to rip apart a piece of what he refers to as 'raw' writing, so you as the reader can have a visual glimpse of how a piece of writing ends up after being ripped to shreds, how it improves dramatically.

If you are an aspiring writer, or a reader who just wants to pick up a book for a glimpse into another's life, then 'On Writing' is the book you are looking for. Pick up your copy today, but do not blame me if it takes up a permanent spot on your bookshelf.

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