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


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. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

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

As an author, Stephen King's book was a great inspiration to me.

In the first part of the book, I learned the author's biography. Like all great authors who build an empire, he had to build it through perseverance, failures, and setbacks. This is at least the fifth time I've read this book, and I can't wait to read it again, especially the second part, which he calls "The Toolbox".

After explaining the road to his success, Stephen King talks about writing and the tricks of the writer's journey. This giant describes himself as the first reader of his stories.…

This book is a mix of memoir and advice, taking you inside the life, mind, and writing processes of one of the most successful fiction writers of our time. It’s an oldie-but-a-goodie, having come out in 2000, but the advice on craft is timeless.

Much like Everybody Writes, this book also serves as a great case study in making your writing distinctive and leaning into your lived experiences when you write. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, but I’d wager that this quick read is almost as compelling and thrilling as many of his other works. 

Every time someone asks me to recommend a book on writing, this is the first book that comes to mind.

It is a two-part wonder, one part memoir and one part master class on writing. Your first treat is the tale of this expert storyteller’s path to being a writer. And then come the tips. One of my favorite tips involves killing all your adverbs, words he likens to weeds.

Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King’s stories or not, this is the book for you if you want to experience what it feels like to be a writer and…

From Landis' list on the writing life.

This, unlike my other picks, is a work of nonfiction. It’s a treatise on the craft of writing, actually, and one of my favorites.

I’m including it because if you’re a fan of reading books with strong elements of escapism and world-building, there’s a good chance that one day you will want to write books with strong elements of escapism and worldbuilding! And what better way than to learn from a master himself?

Not only does King offer general advice (like, don’t watch tv), he weaves a surprising amount of practical advice into this enjoyable read, too (stay away from…

Before I discovered my previous pick, this book was my main recommendation for new writers. It is divided into two parts. The first is an immensely entertaining account of Stephen King’s journey to becoming a writer. The second is one of the best explorations of how to use language to tell a story I’ve ever read. Now, I don’t agree with everything King has to say on the craft of fiction writing – personally, I think he’s dead wrong when he recommends not using outlines – but I have yet to see better as guides go for how to create…

Early in my author life I picked this memoir up to discover Mr. King's secret to his success. I had visited his home in Bangor Maine and of course it was quirky as I had expected but I was curious if his memoir would evoke that same feeling. When I finished this book there were some tips I gleaned from writing but I was inspired to never give up. I applied this to all aspects of life, not just as an author. His strength facing rejection, recovery from a horrible accident, and his discipline and balance in life was inspiring. 

I’m not really a Stephen King fan, although I did like Salem’s Lot. On Writing hooked me early in my writing career because he tells it like it is, ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’ I recommended this book to all my students when I taught introductory creative writing. 

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…

Want books like On Writing?

Our community of 9,000+ authors has personally recommended 100 books like On Writing.

Browse books like On Writing

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in writer's block, worldbuilding, and writing?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about writer's block, worldbuilding, and writing.

Writer's Block Explore 23 books about writer's block
Worldbuilding Explore 127 books about worldbuilding
Writing Explore 55 books about writing