OWL Magazine Korea

Stephen King’s ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’

Having operated a blog for over ten years, I find that writing remains a field in which one must continually learn and refine their skills. Despite nearly daily writing practice, the art of writing remains challenging.

Though writing continues to present its challenges, selecting topics and crafting articles has become more enjoyable and refined compared to earlier experiences.

“Books that Helped with Writing”

In this post, I’d like to introduce a book that personally aided me in the early stages of managing a blog. The book is “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King, a best-selling author.

“Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

When I first established my blog on Tistory in 2008, I struggled with what to write about and how to structure my articles. Despite my enthusiastic decision to start a blog, the technical aspects lagged behind, making the process challenging. This led to contemplation about writing and, subsequently, the natural exploration of books discussing the subject.

The book that caught my attention during this time was “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” The author, Stephen King, is a renowned best-selling writer.

“Stephen King’s Approach to Writing”

“On Writing” encapsulates Stephen King’s philosophy and experiences regarding writing. Rather than providing a specific methodology for writing, the book shares personal experiences and philosophies on what makes writing closer to becoming a bestseller.

Although not heavily focused on technical aspects, the book still contains valuable content for novice writers. It addresses fundamental aspects of writing such as “vocabulary, grammar,” “paragraph structure,” and “themes.”

The technical aspects covered in the book are somewhat limited. The following points represent the majority of the technical content discussed in the book:

  1. Use active voice over passive voice.
  2. Prioritize the reader’s perspective.
  3. Use adverbs sparingly.
  4. Focus on “basic verbs” rather than peculiar ones (use “said” instead of “grated” or “gasped”).
  5. Always use ‘S after a possessive pronoun.
  6. Place essential information at the end of a sentence.

“Editing Manuscripts is Trimming”

After writing, authors often review their work, searching for areas that require modification. The core of Stephen King’s editing philosophy is about “trimming.” He suggests removing about 10% of the initial draft, emphasizing the importance of cutting out unnecessary content.

While recognizing the importance of trimming in my writing process, the constraints of time sometimes hinder me from performing this task. Consequently, there are instances when I publish without thorough proofreading, which I acknowledge as an area for self-improvement.

“From Good to Great Writers”

Stephen King categorizes the levels of writers into four stages:

  • Awful writer
  • Good writer
  • Great writer
  • Genius writer

He expresses a rather sharp view that awful writers cannot become good writers, great writers cannot become genius writers, but good writers can become great writers. Moving from stage two to stage three is a feasible and achievable progression, while reaching stage four is considered a significant leap into a different dimension.

Personally, I resonate with this perspective. While reaching from an awful writer to a good writer requires a considerable effort, surpassing from a good writer to a great writer seems more attainable. However, the leap to genius status appears to be an entirely different realm.

Reflecting on oneself and considering the starting point, I might have begun as an awful writer. The current position is a matter of self-evaluation. Am I still an awful writer, or have I improved slightly?

Concluding the day, I contemplate my identity as a writer and strive to make incremental progress.

“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”