Review: On Writing by Stephen King

Over the years, many people have recommended On Writing by Stephen King.  Many of them said even if you don’t want to be a writer you will still find this book fascinating.  I finally read it.  And yes, everyone was right.  I loved it.

Also, I found out that King and I have some things in common.  Both of us love to read,  to write, and to go for long walks.  The similarities stop there for the most part, but if all humans were alike, stories would be mundane.  I won’t go into all of the advice that he gives.  If you would like to know more, I suggest reading the book.  I learned three important things from him (I learned more, but these are the big ones).  One, writers should write.  That one seems obvious right.  Writing a lot helps you improve.  Two, writers should read.  I’ve heard from another writer that she doesn’t advocate this.  But I think I will write about that in a different post.  I love this piece of advice.  I love to read and I learn so much from other writers.  I don’t want to mimic other works, but learning from them, in my opinion, is completely different.  Three, set goals and don’t stop until you reach your daily goal.  I have always set goals, but to be completely honest, I don’t always meet my daily goals.  I’ve implemented this last point and guess what folks, I’ve been more productive.

I’m not sure what part I loved the most.  The writing tips were fantastic.  His childhood memories made me laugh.  I’m glad I didn’t have a babysitter who would sit on me and fart.  Also, I haven’t read a lot of his novels; however, if he includes scenes with maggots I now know that he is an expert on them.  Yuck!  His description of getting hit by a van was terrifying and I couldn’t stop reading.

Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed this entire book.  And I recommend it.  But now I have a problem.  For one of my challenges I decided to read The Illuminatus! Trilogy.  I selected it since it was published in 1975.  But I saw that ‘Salem’s Lot was also published in 1975.  I still want to read the trilogy but I might put it on the back burner and pick up ‘Salem’s Lot instead.  Any thoughts on this?

Below you will find some pictures from one of my recent walks through Brompton Cemetery. Including photos from a cemetery seemed fitting for a post about King.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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51 Responses to Review: On Writing by Stephen King

  1. I love your summary and your comments on the book, TBM, and I agree with those three points! Thank you for sharing.

  2. zelmare says:

    Interesting… I’m not a fan of King (I’ve only ever read one of his books), but I do know he is an excellent writer with a huge following. I believe one can learn a lot from him. Is Brompton Cemetery
    an old one? It looks ancient and as if it is not used anymore.

    • TBM says:

      Brompton opened in the 1860s I believe. I walk on the dog side that is older, but I know they still have burials on the newer side.

  3. aFrankAngle says:

    Definitely a fitting ending to a King post. 🙂

  4. fgassette says:

    I’m glad you are getting good advice on writing. Other than my attempts on my blog, I’m not a writer. I have a few cemetery photos as well. Keep up the good work I know I will see your book published one day.


  5. Novroz says:

    horaaayw…finally a review of favorite author’s book 🙂
    On Writing captures many hearts easily. I lent it to my ex-student once and she loved it so much and on impulse bought Carrie…tho in the end she never read the book and gave it to me as a birthday present 😉

    Salem’s Lot isn’t one of my favs but it was a fun read.

  6. vinnieh says:

    Great post and photo’s, I really need to read more of his books

  7. Melissa says:

    Love, love, love that book, think I have read/listened to it about three times in the last ten years. Happy to hear you enjoyed it. I just recently read Salem’s Lot for the first time, it wasn’t bad had an interesting take on an old story. I will admit a few times I did get creeped out, but that is probably because I was hanging out in our walkout basement with the cats. Beautiful cemetery photos.

    • TBM says:

      Got it. Don’t read this book in a basement. I’ll read it in my front room with the blinds open so it is always sunny and cheerful. Thanks!

  8. I’ve heard other people rave about On Writing and have been meaning to read it for years. Will add it to the Kindle soon. I definitely agree about reading. Proper sentence structure and all kinds of great stuff subtly sink into your brain and that has to be good for the writing process.

    • TBM says:

      I can’t imagine writers not reading. How can you love crafting stories but not want to read other stories? I wouldn’t want to live such a limited life. I hope you like the book!

      • I agree about reading making for better writing. I can always tell when my writing students aren’t avid readers. Though I wish I had 8 hours a day to read like Stephen King does. 🙂
        On Writing is a wonderful book and I try to reread it every so often.

      • TBM says:

        8 hours a day to read…that is a nice thought. Are you teaching right now?

  9. Gilly Gee says:

    This book was recommended by my writing tutors, it’s about time I got round to reading it!

  10. Jo Bryant says:

    I really admire Stephen King and will look for this but I have to admit I find his books difficult to enjoy

  11. Oooh, read Salem’s Lot. Year’s ago that was my favourite Stephen King book. Now he has written many more since then of course, but I recently put Salem’s Lot on my ereader so I could revisit it once again :). I think I should give On Writing a try because I’ve always wanted to know what makes him tick. I figure he’s got a really messed up mind to write the stuff he does, and his books seem to get stranger and stranger as the years go by, but I still love them!

    • TBM says:

      I was surprised by how normal he came across in this book. I’ve heard enough about his stories to know that he can write some gruesome stuff so I was expecting his personality to be different. Not sure how to describe what I expected. Instead, he came across as a guy I would enjoy hanging out with to watch the Red Sox play. He’s had some interesting experiences in his younger days that may account for some of his writing. I’m going to look into Salem’s Lot.

  12. Carl V. says:

    So glad you read and enjoyed this. I’ve given the same advice you got about this book to SOOOO many people over the years. It is a book worth reading, plain and simple.

    Most writers I’ve read who talk about the craft recommend reading. Reading often, reading a variety, and then more reading. Not sure I would trust any advice to the contrary. Obviously when it is time to sit down and write a person might not want to be reading, but I think the best way to learn the structure and to find your own voice is to a) write, and b) study the work of people you admire.

    Since you enjoyed this I certainly think reading some Stephen King fiction would be perfect. And given that RIP starts in a few weeks, what better time to pick up King? 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Actually, I think you mentioned this to me once before (along with many others). So I’m starting to make progress on the Carl list. And I have Thank You, Jeeves sitting here on my pile. When I heard this one author say that she didn’t read since it distracted her and that she didn’t suggest it, it crushed me. How can you love to write, but not love to read? I recently heard another author at the London Book Fair say that she didn’t read much either since she got bored. That didn’t make sense to me at all. Maybe you can recommend some books for her.

      I think my library has a copy of Salems Lot so I better get it quick for RIP. I have a huge stack ready for it!

  13. elisaruland says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. There haven’t been too many Stephen King books that I’ve been able to finish…I’m looking forward to one that I can actually enjoy!

    • TBM says:

      This one was entertaining for me. I’m a little nervous about his other writings since I’m not a huge fan of horror, but I’m going to give some of his books a shot.

      • elisaruland says:

        The Seasons, which included the novella, “The Body,” was one of my favorites. It was adapted into the film in the 80’s, Stand by Me, which was also a favorite!

      • TBM says:

        I actually read The Body and enjoyed it. Now I can add that to my list of accomplishments. I’ll have to read the other stories. Thanks! Stand by Me is a great flick. I cry each time.

  14. T.F.Walsh says:

    It’s a great book – read it many years ago… might pull it out and read it again:)

  15. pattisj says:

    This does look like an old cemetery. They don’t make grave markers like that any more, not the norm, anyway. I’ve heard his book is very good, though I’m not a follower of his other writing, either. But one has to respect someone who has the readership he does–he’s doing something right. 🙂 I agree that writers should write, read, and yes, I need to work on those daily goals!

    • TBM says:

      Daily goals are difficult to master. I’m doing my best to get into a habit so I don’t even have to think about it. Good luck!

  16. Caroline says:

    I’ve read the book a while ago and really liked it. I also liked to find out that he reads so widely. I thought he would read exclusively in his own genre but that isn’t the case at all. That’s why I liked the reading list at the end of the book.
    The daily goals are not a bad suggestion. I have phases in which I stick to them and phases in which I don’t. Depends a bit on the worklaod but I’d say if you’re a writer you should stick to it. Being independent needs so much more discipline and you need to give yourself a structure. That goes for any type of independent work, not only writing.
    I like your photos a lot, btw.

    • TBM says:

      I was really impressed by his reading list. Like you, I thought he would only stick to horror. I was happy to see some Dickens on the list 🙂 I thought he had a nice mix of classics, non-fiction, popular, and a few odds and ends. It made me feel loads better since I read just about anything that comes my way. Discipline is difficult, and like you said, in every field. I’ve always been attracted to work that allows me more independence. So far I’ve stuck to the daily goals, except I haven’t gone on many runs lately. Walking is so much easier 🙂

  17. Madhu says:

    I saw this reviewed on another blog that I follow! Will have to get my hands on a copy!

  18. blueberriejournal says:

    Of course a writer has to read… just like a cook has to eat. It is necessary. 🙂

  19. Fergiemoto says:

    Very fitting photos for Stephen King, in my opinion. I have some of his books, I’ve read them, and I don’t know why I couldn’t put a few of them down when I started. It’s gripping in an odd way that I can’t explain.

    • TBM says:

      That’s good to know. I know many people love his stories. I can’t watch that many horror films, but I’m hoping reading will be less scary. Maybe not, but here’s to hoping.

  20. The Guat says:

    I’m glad you reviewed this … I may have to pick this up.

  21. cheratomo says:

    I really love this book. I’m so glad you’ve read it! It really teaches you a lot, and even if you aren’t a writer you can learn from his life and the ways he found to do well with his own work. ^^

  22. Myra GB says:

    I used to have a Stephen King phase back in my university years. Now, at this point in my life, I don’t think I like that dreadful dire darkness that seems to go on forever, until the very end of the book. I didn’t know he wrote about writing, though. Interesting. What’s the Illuminatus Trilogy about? I think I’ve read Salem’s Lot, it’s a quick read, I think, and you’d have fun with it.

    • TBM says:

      The Trilogy is a series that someone gave me years ago and I still haven’t read it–the guilt is starting to get to me. It’s a satirical science fiction story with conspiracy theories surrounding the Illuminati. My friend said he couldn’t put it down. I’ll get to it, but now I’m curious about King’s writing after reading this on.

  23. Pingback: The Shining by Stephen King | 50 Year Project

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