ON WRITING is better than I thought it would be. It's marvelous. I finished it in less than two days.
In the First Forward, Stephen King observes that popular novelists are never "asked about the language" when queried by admiring fans. Thus, he states:
"What follows is an attempt to put down , briefly and simply, how I came to the craft (of telling stories on paper), what I know about it now, and how it's done. It's about the day job; it's about the language."
In the first hundred or so pages, King shares his experiences growing up in Maine and Connecticut, his marriage, his struggles as a novice writer, and his drug and alcohol problems. King intends this section not as an autobiography, but as a curriculum vitae. It ends with the assignment of the paperback rights to CARRIE, his first novel.
In the next 150 pages, the author describes how he performs his craft. He explains the "tools" of writing (vocabulary and grammar), the creative environment (the room, the door, the determination to close the door, and the music - Hard Rock in King's case), style and formatting (paragraphing, narration, description, and dialogue), and the final stretch to a finished piece (drafts, editing, and proofreading by a trusted friend - wife/author Tabitha in King's case).
The final few pages, in a way, are the most interesting. It's Stephen's account of the road accident in 1999 that inflicted multiple fractures to his ribs and lower body, and the effect the mishap had on his writing. Ironically enough, he'd half completed this book at the time of the incident, and he had to struggle to come back and finish.
Though King was once a high school English teacher, ON WRITING is in no way pedantic, but chatty and informal. It's a book straight from the author's heart, and it shows.
"Don't wait for the muse ... This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic."
This last excerpt illustrates why I like this book so much. It's applicable to any sort of writing whether it be reviews for Amazon or technical writing on-the-job, both of which I do in tremendous amounts.
The author's first rule for good writing is that the writer must read a lot. Well, I do that - constantly. Perhaps I can improve my own poor scribbling. In this overview of the volume, I've followed his advice; I've kept the paragraphs short and avoided use of passive sentence construction. That's something, at least.