My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’ve never read a single book by Stephen King, so this makes my first. While reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, I decided, however, that I’ll very likely read a few of his books.
On Writing is down-to-earth, humble, honest, and enlightening. King doesn’t speak down to the reader-wanna-be-writer, but rather plainly and on equal terms. The book is divided into about three equal parts (out of 291 pages, can be read in a few days): 1) King’s Past, growing up and as struggling writer; 2) The Mechanics of Effective Writing; 3) On Living.
The first part of the book about King’s past really opens the door into King’s personal life, and the reader comes out respecting the man more. Coming from a middle-class, broken home, King swiftly pinpoints and relates key moments in his childhood and adolescence that had some influence on him becoming a writer. The memories (at times he says are “snapshots”) are sometimes a page in length, and are usually quite funny and charming.
And King writes, “At some point I began to write my own stories. Imitation preceded creation” (p 27). As the reader follows King from a small child to his first big sale of Carrie for $400,000 (he’d get half of that) on Mother’s Day in 1973, the reader is watching history unfold—how an unknown writer-high school teacher has his dreams come true, and the story is gripping and inspirational, to say the least.
The second part of this book is primarily about the mechanics of writing. At several times King mentions Strunk and White’s book The Elements of Style (which I highly recommend for any writer, new or not). Much of what King has to relate here is nothing new or special and has been repeated a hundred plus times in many other craft books on writing. But he explains it simply and briefly, and one can tell he is adept at what he does.
The last section of the book focuses on two areas: a) King’s near-death accident when he was hit by a van in June 1999; b) the story “1408” before and after edits. King’s traumatic event is told with clarity and is quite interesting, and shows that he is a man like other men, just one who really enjoys writing. After the accident, King explains how difficult it was to finish a book he was working on, which turns out to be the very book being read, On Writing.
King writes: “The pain in my hip was just short of apocalyptic. And the first five hundred words were uniquely terrifying—it was as if I’d never written anything before them in my life. All my old tricks seemed to have deserted me. I stepped from one word to the next like a very old man finding his way across a stream on a zigzag line of wet stones.
There was no inspiration that first afternoon, only a kind of stubborn determination and the hope that things would get better if I kept at it” (p 268) and later, after the writing becomes easier, he says that it makes him happy “because it’s what I was made to do” (p 269).
One more quote I’d like to add really sums up King’s view on writing, which is there’s no bullshit, and he’s right. In this book, he has kept the bullshit out of it. Toward the end, he writes: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well” (p 269). No bullshit there.
Exactly a book any writer needs along the way to enrich his/her life. A strong recommend for any writer at any level, whether you’re a fan of King or not. After reading On Writing by Stephen King, I won’t hesitate to try out his other books.
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists, such as Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5