In the year 2000, Stephen King published an autobiography full of his experiences and advice for future writers titled On Writing. I’ve read the whole book several times, and I still come up with new insight every time I flip through the pages. His message is written to aspiring writers, but is just as valuable as a resource for readers.
His advice includes nuggets like cutting out the “boring” parts of the manuscript. This tip has made reading books with fast paces become more pleasant for me. Sometimes, I just want more detail, or more background. I want to beg the writer to slow down and give me more. But if the author can’t deliver that content in an engaging and natural way, then it doesn’t deserve a place in the story.
My absolute favorite tip for writers is to write for yourself first, your audience second. I dismissed this tip at first, because it didn’t make sense to me at the time. I thought that the reader was the point. Having an audience is what makes the books sell, right? Wrong. Books sell because the author is passionate about his work. Natural detail and growth of a character come from the writer’s life.
Applying this rule to my reading mind, I have found a new connection with my favorite authors. Reading the book as if it is a direct extension of the author (which it is) shows me a window into the heart and passion of the author. When tragedy strikes in a novel, the pain written into the pages comes bleeding from the author’s soul onto the page. The joy of a mission accomplished, the exultation of a new parent, these are opportunities for a writer to pluck a part of their soul out and put it on display.
In the biographic sections, King also recounts the story of Carrie coming to life. I won’t spoil the details, but I will say it was an eye-opening read. King provides the platform for new writers to find courage and faith in their own work by making his humanity plain for all to see.
On Writing is, simply put, a critical part of any suggested reading list. It is short but powerful, and it makes a great graduation gift or a surprise for no other reason. Or just treat yourself to a copy. It will instantly earn its place in your collection.