Nov 28, 2011

Books || Stephen King ~ On Writing

A few months ago, I made a list of the things I enjoy doing, deciding to spend time doing each of these. Writing was on that list.

In an effort to understand writing better, I attended a Sunday workshop on creative writing. As it turned out, I didn't end up learning anything great over there. What did happen however, was that as I was participating in the various writing exercises, I realized how easily words came to me. And how they never stopped.

I decided to spend more time pursuing the art of writing. I got regular on my blog. I opened up Word docs at random and started to type. Suddenly, I was surrounded by diaries and notepads, scribbling away furiously. Read-able or not, writing is the one thing that absorbs me completely, holds my attention, as long as it pleases. My muse can have me, take me away, anytime, anywhere. Its wish is my command.

Anyway, there are two books I read that further inspired me to take my writing seriously. And, I'd like to talk about one of them today. It's written by Stephen King, and it's called ON WRITING.

The best thing that happened to me after I read this book was that I started to believe that I could write too. Earlier, when I read great and wonderful books, I used to wish I could write like that too, but I thought I never could. Mr. King reconfirmed that for me. Through his book he told me, of course, I could never write like that. But I could write like only I could. I could tell the stories that only I could tell, through my perceptions, that are unique to me. It was encouraging. I began to write more.

King puts forth his theory about the different kinds writers there are. This has stayed with me, and I think about it almost everyday. He says the four different kinds of writers are: Bad Writer, Competent Writer, Good Writer and Great Writer.

The interesting part is this: according to King, a bad writer can never become a competent one, and a good writer can never become a great one. But a competent writer can certainly hope, aspire and work towards becoming a good one. I have somehow taken the liberty to assume myself a competent writer, and spend every day of my life trying to become a good one. I hope I shall succeed some day.

I would say that this book is a must-read for anyone hoping to take up writing at some point in their lives. Even if you don't, the book is still an interesting read. Try it!

You can purchase the book here, or here.

I'll leave you with a quote from the book:

"Stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position."

Do you know of any inspiring books on writing? Please do share!

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  1. I am not that passionate about writing... all that i want is to pen down my thoughts in a logical sequence which is comprehendible :)
    But good luck to you and your dreams :) :)

    By the way that quote from the book apply's to us all who are trying to do something or the other in life... right????

    All the best :)

  2. @Purvi: Yes, the quote does apply to almost anything you can do in life.
    Thank you for stopping by, do come again! :)

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Wow :) I never felt this encouraged. Thanks for your post. I started writing just as a hobby. As days passed, when people started giving feedback, I started realizing that I am doing better and better. But somewhy, I could not get that confidence that shines in your post. Every time I write something, I worry if it will match up to the standards of expectation that I already created. After reading your post, I got a thorough boost and I am gonna read that book :)

    Thanks a lot :)

  5. @Keirthana: I'm so glad you found this post useful. I was hoping that somebody would. The confidence you are talking about comes only when you write for yourself and when you are honest.

    Keep writing, and yes, read that book!

  6. I haven't read books on writing, but I have read a few essays. If you can read Tamil, I may be able to find them. In addition to tips on writing, I'd suggest you learn the structure of your writing form as well. For instance, a short story should be laser focused and end with a blow (i.e. no subtext till the end, no lengthy passages where nothing happens, etc). A novel has subtext throughout. Learning to see that in what you read would really help.

    Robert Pirsig gives an overview of how he writes his books in Lila, the sequel to his more famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. You may try that too, if you like reading philosophy.

  7. @Kannan: Thanks for all the suggestions, I'll give them a try. Unfortunately, I can only read Tamil very haltingly, and I get stuck at big words. But thanks for trying to help anyway. I'll try to get my hands on Lila.

  8. Stephen King was just a horror story writer until I happened to visit Maine, the place where Mr.King lived and wrote his books. The place has such a calm and serene feel to it that it surprised me how could horror ideas arise out of this place. Then I download a movie called 'Mist' and watched it, and the way how horror is shown in silence and in emptiness totally took my breath away. He is a very mature writer and writes quite multi-layered stories.

    I am happy you found him.. :)
    And thanks for introducing the book, I will try to read it when possible.

  9. @Kannan (in case he reads this, Sumitra please excuse this comment) - I have tried a hand at short stories too. Would like to have your opinion on them, if you can manage any time. Thanks in advance.

    My blog is at

  10. @Vikas: Sorry, I didn't see your comment earlier. Wow, so nice you've been to Maine. The first book of Stephen King I read was Carrie. It was gross, but I could not put the book down! That said, it's not really my favourite genre, but the book on writing was really something.

  11. Hello Sumi! Your comments were very inspiring and sweet, so I thought of heading over to do the same and what do I find? An absolutely endearing cow! Hahaaa...GREAT, and I mean GREAT layout! It's clutter-free and simple but very professional! THUMBS UP!

    Oh and I adore Stephen King! He's one of my muses. And I agree with him, being a competent writer is a step toward being great, albeit a pretty big step. You're on your way Sumitra!xx

  12. Try reading 'The Shining', It's not your usual ghost and ghoul story but the horror in it is equally deep and shocking. It takes a close look at human behaviour and how such characteristics have the power to scare a person. You don't need ghosts for that. Human beings are equally terrifying =)

  13. @Darsh: Thanks, I'm so glad you liked the layout. I've seen the movie The Shining, and it scared the bejesus out of me. Yep, just Jack Nicholson's expressions were enough to terrify me. Obviously the book would be 10 times scarier, right. But now you've tempted me, so I'll just have to go read it.

  14. I will surely look into the book, for the old times' sake, if for nothing. As a child, I'd devoured books by Stephen King. I take a lot of inspiration from Ernest Hemingway when it comes to the urge of writing. I take the following quote by him as an epigraph to my humble efforts.

    "For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can."