On Writing

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This article is about the Stephen King memoir. For the Hemingway short story, see On Writing (Hemingway).
On Writing
First edition cover
Author Stephen King
Cover artist Lisa Litwak
Country United States
Language English
Subject Autobiography, Writing
Publisher Scribner
Publication date
October 3, 2000
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 291
ISBN 978-0-684-85352-9

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a memoir by Stephen King, published in 2000, which documents his experiences as a writer and also serves as a guide book for those who choose to enter the craft.


Stephen King began writing On Writing in November or December 1997. After finishing the memoir portion of the book, as well as the advice on English mechanics, King set aside the manuscript in February or March 1998, explaining in the final section of On Writing that he was uncertain on how or whether he should proceed with the book. In June 1999, King reread the uncompleted draft and became determined to finish it.[1]:265 However, on June 19, King was hit by a van while walking along Maine State Route 5.[2][3] Following the incident, King struggled to return to writing, speculating whether he would publish another novel. In October 1999, King stated, "After the accident, I was totally incapable of writing. At first it was as if I'd never done this in my life. ... It was like starting over again from square one."[2] A few months later, in January 2000, King wrote that he had finished On Writing and was more optimistic about his career, writing on his website, "My endurance is much less than it was and my output has been cut in half, but I am working."[4] The final section of the book is titled "On Living: A Postscript", and it reflects on the accident and details his return to writing, stating "things have continued to get better."[1]:269 On Writing was the first book King published following his accident.[5]


On Writing is organized into five sections, each with a different focus. The first section is a curriculum vitae ("C.V.") which is an autobiographical account of King’s life and his early exposure to writing. King talks about his early attempts to get published, and his first novel Carrie. King also talks about his fame as a writer, and what it took to get there. This section includes his relationship with his wife, the death of his mother, and his history of drug and alcohol abuse. The second section is titled "What Writing Is". He briefly introduces himself again and includes an example of literary description. King compares writing to telepathy and urges the reader to take writing and his advice seriously. In the third section, "Toolbox", King discusses English mechanics and the importance of vocabulary, grammar, and style in writing. The fourth section, "On Writing", details King's advice on writing. The fifth section, "On Living: A Postscript", is also autobiographical. King discusses the 1999 accident in which he was struck by a vehicle while walking down an isolated country road. He describes the injuries he suffered, his painful recovery and his struggle to start writing again.

King includes part of a rough draft and an edited draft of his story "1408". He also includes a poem by his wife Tabitha King.

In the United Kingdom paperback version, a short story by Garret Adams entitled "Jumper" was included at the end of the book. The story won the On Writing competition.


On Writing was first published in 2000 by Charles Scribner's Sons. On July 13, 2010, Scribner published a 10th Anniversary edition of the book (ISBN 978-1-4391-9363-1), featuring an updated reading list from Stephen King.


In 2008, Entertainment Weekly listed On Writing 21st on their list of The New Classics: Books – The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008, making it King's only entry.[6] Sharon Johnson of The Patriot-News wrote that King survived his car accident "with his skill intact", calling King's advice "solid" and "an unexpected gift to writers and readers."[7] Julie Woo for the Associated Press also called King's advice "solid", specifically about dialogue and plot. However, Woo also observed that "many other books about writing offer such advice and some are more inspirational and ambitious," noting how "King cannot replicate a formula for his success so he does the next best thing by describing his work habits and environment urging that consistency in those areas can be conducive to good writing."[8] John Mark Eberhart for the Sunday Free Lance-Star criticized On Writing, remarking that it "lacks originality, at least in the advice King offers, ... The recommendations here are so pedestrian that I can't remember when I first ran across any of them."[9]


  1. ^ a b King, Stephen (2010). On writing : a memoir of the craft (Scribner trade pbk. ed., 10th anniversary ed. ed.). New York, NY: Scribner. ISBN 9781439156810. 
  2. ^ a b Sharp, David (29 October 1999). "King admits difficulties since accident". Bangor Daily News (115) (Bangor Publishing). Associated Press. p. B1. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Stephen King: The 'Craft' Of Writing Horror Stories". NPR Books. NPR. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Kresse, Jim. "He's only working at half of his usual dizzying pace". The Spokesman-Review (McClatchy-Tribune Information Services). Retrieved 18 September 2015 – via HighBeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (15 October 2000). "King's latest work is 'On Writing'". Post-Tribune (Sun-Times News Group). Retrieved 18 September 2015 – via Highbeam Research. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ "The New Classics: Books: The 100 Best Reads from 1983 to 2008" Entertainment Weekly, issue #999–1000, June 27, 2008.
  7. ^ Johnson, Sharon (1 October 2000). "King terrifies with account of accident". The Patriot-News (The Patriot-News Co). p. E04 – via Access World News. 
  8. ^ Woo, Julie (29 October 2000). "It's great to be the king - THE MSTER SPEAKS: Stephen King 's writing is his life and his life is writing.". Ventura County Star. Associated Press. pp. J05 – via Access World News. 
  9. ^ Eberhart, John Mark (15 October 2000). "Not exactly the King of instructors". Sunday Free Lance-Star 114 (289) (Free Lance-Star). p. F7. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 

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