On Writing by Stephen King is a memoir that’s filled with his thoughts about writing. The book, published in 2000, is informative and entertaining.
In the book’s Second Foreword, he writes, “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.” He passes along a rule from Strunk & White’s classic The Elements of Style: “Omit needless words.”
King quotes a college professor who counseled him about editing. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
I love what King says about using fancy words: “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes.”
After expressing a preference for active voice over passive in sentence composition, King issues another caution. He suggests: “The adverb is not your friend. They’re like dandelions. If you have one…it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely and profligately covered with dandelions.” Point made!
Stephen King encourages all of us who write to read. A lot. He says: “It (reading) offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dead (or dying) on the page.”
Parts of On Writing are directed primarily to fiction writers, but most of his ideas are useful for all writers. I recommend you read it. You’ll enjoy it and you’ll learn from it.
On Writing is available for download to Kindle, Nook and iPad. Or buy the audiobook from iTunes and have Stephen King himself read it to you!