On Writing by Stephen King

April 23, 2010
Let us first begin by discussing what kind of writing reputation Stephen King has created for himself. He is a world renowned writer and it is truly a privilege of an assignment to read a book that was written by someone as good at writing as he.
This book has spunk, it is written in a manner that is different than any other book I have ever read as a school assignment. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his literature and feel that I will use what I have read in my upcoming pieces to better my writing method. He explains in this book that less is more. What he means by that is when coming across a point where it is possible to use a phrase but a word will suffice, it is better to just stick with the word. He does this because it is easier on the reader to understand and it sounds better. One of the main points in this book is the idea that all writing should be centered on the reader. The reason being if the reader doesn’t understand the message trying to be portrayed, what is the point? There isn’t one which is why it is so important to keep that in mind. It is easy to get lost in one’s mind and lose focus on the reader. I have done this myself; my brain will go off on a different tangent and when I reread what I have just written I realize it just a blending of ideas. This can cause confusion when the piece is being read by a third party. If the reader becomes confused and the main idea of the piece is lost it is a terrible reflection on the writer.
He references using a toolbox as a set of skills each writer should have in their repertoire. I like this analogy very much because I am somewhat of a handyman and I know the importance of having all of the tools that might be necessary at the job site, for convenience of just being able to reach in, dig around a bit and find what is sought after. He states that grammar and mechanics are on the top shelf of the toolbox because they are needed most frequently. It is quintessential to have the right tool for the job and it only makes sense to put that on the top self since it is used so often. He explains that grammar and mechanics are necessary, but a truly great writer doesn’t need to use them as often as a not so great writer because it is easier for the good writer to get creative. What he means by this is that a good writer can use different techniques that are out of the ordinary to get his/her point across without being so cut and dry. I like that he points this out because from time to time I exude an above average ability for writing, and I can appreciate being allowed to use different techniques to get my point across.
Another key point in the passage of the book we were assigned to read is that adverbs and the passive voice is the enemy. What he means by this is that it is boring and safe to use the passive voice when writing because it doesn’t express the sentence as well as the active voice. It just sounds backwards in my opinion after looking at his examples. The sentences in the active voice kept the flow of the piece much better than the passive voice. It almost interrupted the point of writing when it was written in the passive voice.
Reading the excerpt of the book that I did, I realized that there are many different ways to skin a cat, and in order to be a great writer (which is my goal) it is vital to learn and be successful in using multiple techniques. As much advice as he gives about what to write in this book, he gives equal or more on what not to write. He feels that adverbs kill sentences. I didn’t feel that this was right upon him bringing up this topic. But, after I read into it more I realized that he was right, and from that point on I decided it would be a bad idea to second guess The Stephen King.
Like I said before the main idea that he gets at in this book is that the reader should be the main focus of writing. With that being said the vocabulary being used in the piece that is being written should be aimed toward the reader. If the writer has an extensive vocabulary that’s great, but if he/she is writing a children’s book using that vocabulary isn’t doing much good. With that being said it is important to know the audience that is going to reading what has been written. For example, I have been taught correctly or not by past teachers that it is always better to look in a thesaurus and find a better word. Word choice, word choice, word choice, this has been imprinted in my brain after being drilled with it for such a long time. What I really should have been taught is know your audience and use words that they will comprehend as to make the reading easier on them. I feel I have been cheated out of many years of schooling with the idea that bigger is better. As it is obviously not, if Stephen King says short and sweet is better than long and drawn out. I was taught that short means that there isn’t enough detail or information in context, and it is necessary to go back and add more. However, King states that less is more using little words that everyday people will understand, rather than scientific enormous words that only a select few out of the entire population reading the book will understand. Looking back on my education this makes sense, let’s look at this logically, the teachers that have told me to do what I just explained to you are just that, teachers. They were grade school or middle school teachers making a low salary in a job that they didn’t even really like. Enter Stephen King, a famous writer who makes ridiculous amounts of money on each book he writes. Who should I listen to? The choice is simple and really shouldn’t take much time to think about when it comes down to it. The decision is obviously Stephen King; I think he might know a little more than my sixth grade teacher. Honestly, what gives her the right to screw up my writing and imprint something that is so terribly wrong into my head at such an early age? Nothing, and that is what is wrong with today’s school systems, they aren’t teaching the right things. Why would they teach something that is they think is commonly accepted as the right way, when it is totally the wrong way? Stephen King isn’t the first writer to explain the way everyone should right and he won’t be last. Are teachers illiterate and have never picked up a copy of any of these books?
After my final analysis I have come to the conclusion that I have been scarred, but that is not where it ends. I don’t have to live the rest of my life writing terrible pieces, I can change, I can adapt. All I have to do is realize where the problems are and make corrections, and work at it. This book has made me scrutinize my writing a lot more than I ever have before. If I continue to stick with the advice that he has given in this book I will have no problem with the transition to becoming a great writer. I am not the only person who has to do this though. I am not the only person who was not taught incorrectly, nor am I the only person who has to work twice as hard in order to make up for what I have been taught. These teachers are in the middle schools all across America, at an age when things are so important to get right because that part of education is the basis for upper level learning. What needs to happen is those teachers need to be yanked out and new ones who know the real way to teach need to replace them. If this happens than America has a future of writing. I thank you for assigning this book assignment and giving me the opportunity to salvage what is left for me to fix in my writing.

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