On Writing

By Stephen King,

Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Book description

Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP 100 NONFICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him…

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

11 authors picked On Writing as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

When I purchased this book, I bought it to help with tips on writing. I didn’t realize before the section about the craft of writing, King penned a memoir about his life as a boy who loved to write. He told the story as if we were sitting at a coffee shop sharing our stories like friends do. He writes like he talks using some crude words, but not pretending to be anyone but a regular guy who grew up to become a writer. I appreciated how his memoir helps readers and writers to understand the influence those life experiences…

Stephen King is sometimes thought of as an author of throwaway paperbacks, but the truth is that he is a damn good writer. I admire him for his spiffy language and storytelling ability. The first half of this book is an autobiography about King’s journey from pimple-faced-kid sending short stories to science fiction and fantasy magazines to master of the horror novel, including a gruesome traffic accident that almost killed him. The second half is a master writing course as King gives greater general insight into his craft. Even though we come from different disciplines—he from fiction, I from nonfiction—and…

From Randall's list on learning how to write effectively.

When one of the world’s top-selling authors writes a book that validates many of your most deeply held views on writing and creativity, it’s hard not to recommend it! For example, when so many writers and writing instructors tout planning, plotting, and outlining as essential to creative success, it’s refreshing to come upon a brilliantly successful writer who confesses that he rarely does any of those things. Rather, he frees his stories to take charge of the process; to me, that’s the best way to conquer any writer’s block! Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book: “I won’t…

I was nearly ready to give up on my fiction career when I listened to King’s seminal tome on writing while running on a treadmill one day. Hearing the struggles of a writer as successful as King convinced me to press on and try like hell. Exactly one year later, I sold my first novel. Seven novels and two books of nonfiction later, I still look back on that moment with immense gratitude. Not only is On Writing filled with no-nonsense advice on writing well, but it offers meaningful advice on engaging in the craft and making your efforts…

From Matthew's list on for effective communication.

One of the world’s most successful writers tells it from the heart both as a memoir of his early struggles and a masterclass sharing the secrets of what he calls his toolbox. His advice can be applied to every kind of fiction but many of his examples of effective writing are drawn from the great mystery writers. He is creative, persuasive, honest, and never preachy. Everyone, from the most experienced author to the absolute beginner, will benefit from King’s generous insights. I was excited when I found it. I learned much and have recommended it to others ever since.

From Peter's list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

On Writing has earned its place on most “books for writers lists” thanks to its perfect blend of memoir and writing advice. The beginning of the book is the memoir portion where he shares his journey. It’s encouraging and affirming for new writers to see how he felt about his writing in the early years (his wife rescued Carrie from the trash) to where he is today. The last section of the book is filled with practical writing advice that is beneficial to any writer but is especially useful to the new writer just finding their way. And if horror…

From Lynn's list on writing for new fiction writers.

Stephen King is a great modern storyteller and a master of horror and suspense. However, I’m going a bit left field with my final choice and highlighting his book on the art of writing, rather than one of his novels. For many years I wanted to write a novel. Many times I tried and failed. I had the passion and desire, but I couldn’t find an approach that worked. Writing is an art, finishing a novel is a discipline. There is no right or wrong way, but you have to find a model that suits you.

It was only when…

Though not a fan of his fiction, I recommend this “how-to” that King wrote after a near-death car accident for its entertaining, cogent advice. Beyond the numerous pieces of helpful, “nuts and bolts” guidance, the book also becomes an example of the very narrative the storyteller is teaching a writer how to do.

From Carl's list on learning to write.

This may seem like an obvious choice and it is: It’s obvious King knows a thing or two about writing. But doing it and explaining the process are two completely different beasts. King excels at both.

Part autobiography, part instruction manual, On Writing is not only a personal journey but also a handy guide for how to get things right. While there are countless lessons to be found in the book, the section where King demonstrates the editorial process (here’s what I wrote, here’s what the editor cut or changed) may be an eye-opener for many. If you’re going to…

Apart from all the hard information about how to set up and run an effective career in writing, I’m including this book on my list because of a startling revelation that King makes about his own work. In this revelatory and intimate self-expose, King points out that he was an alcoholic for many, many years of his career, and actually wrote several books that he now has no recollection of ever penning. To me that’s remarkable, and also a cautionary tale. I’m not saying don’t drink – many a writer has lubricated the process with a judicious whiskey or two…

From John's list on the art of writing.

Want books like On Writing?

Our community of 6,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like On Writing.

Browse books like On Writing

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writer's block, authors, and storytelling?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writer's block, authors, and storytelling.

Writer's Block Explore 19 books about writer's block
Authors Explore 78 books about authors
Storytelling Explore 58 books about storytelling