Alex Call on Stephen King On Writing

There are shedloads of books out there about how to write. How to write a screenplay, how to write a bestseller, how to write a novel, how to write a children’s book, etc.

There are countless more blogs out there on writing, of which this one is just the equivalent of a tiny grain of sand on a vast beach.

But there is one book, which is widely accepted as the definitive work on the subject. Over the years, so many people have advised me to read it, recommended it, mentioned it – but I’ve never read it.

At least until recently, when I stumbled upon a copy of it during a recent undercover trip to check out the competition at Waterstones. I always make a point of looking for two books whenever I’m in a bookstore – The Uncle’s Story by Witi Ihimaera (my all-time favourite book, and I want a spare copy, just in case) – and On Writing.

Being a great believer in fate, that having kept my eyes open for it for various year, when I saw it, I bought it – even if it was from the enemy. Even the cashier said to me that it was extremely popular, and that usually when they got a copy it sold straight away.

The book is partly an autobiography – ‘this is how I did it, and this is how I do it’ – but it works for it, because there is no one way to be a writer.

There were some bits that I was completely amazed by – the bit where he talked about a book being like a fossil in the ground and all you had to do was find it, completely matches my own comparison when I talk about writing – and some bits that I was annoyed by.

Ultimately, though, Stephen King On Writing is the only book on writing you’ll ever need, because it reaffirms that you don’t learn to write fiction by reading a how-to guide.

You learn to write fiction by reading fiction, and by writing fiction.

I suppose I’d best get on with it.

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