Writing with Some Pretty Fast Company. The Authors Collection.

Stephen King
Stephen King

There is no doubt that Stephen King is one of the most successful authors of the age. I’m not a big fan of the genre for much of his work—scary stuff—because I find real life scary enough. It’s not that I’m addicted to the Hallmark Channel and stories about kittens being rescued from trees, but I just don’t feel the need to have the hell—or heaven—scared out of me.

In fact, I’ve only read one Stephen King novel. It was called November 22, 1963, and was, predictably, a Kennedy assassination story, something I’ve written about at length, as well.

David R. Stokes
David R. Stokes

I have, however, found a nonfiction book by King that I like a lot. It’s called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I’ve read it several times and find it helpful on several levels—including motivation. If you’re a writer—or would-be writer—and don’t have a copy, grab one today. I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to put it down.

The first part of the book is autobiographical, a look at King’s background and development as a writer. I originally planned to skip this part in favor of the latter sections dealing with the craft of writing itself. But I’m glad I took to the time to read about King’s journey.

In one of those six-degree-of-separation kind of things, I have a bit of a connection to his story.  When Stephen was trying to sell his first novel—while teaching High School and living in a mobile home in small-town Maine—he got his first real break when a man named William Thompson tracked him down. Thompson worked with Doubleday at the time and was the driving force behind that company’s acquisition of King’s novel.

November-Surprise-ebook_new-225x300Fast forward to about five years ago, just as I was getting into the book writing business. A friend recommended me to this same William Thompson. Bill edited my first couple of books and for reasons that are still unclear to me, he took a liking to me, for which I am very grateful.  After all, working with the guy who discovered Stephen King is pretty cool.

And when you add the fact that Mr. Thompson also—a few years later—discovered another budding wordsmith, a man named John Grisham, it becomes even cooler. Or should that be—more cool?

The second half of King’s On Writing is called Toolbox, a term he derives from one of his relatives. This is one of the finest, and most thorough, essays on the nuts and bolts of writing you’ll ever find. King gives the reader his well thought out philosophy of the written word, complete with examples from his work and many others.

Do I agree with everything King says? No. But please don’t tell him, because it is a very good book and for me to stand in judgment on such a talent would be akin to George S. Patton being a judge on The Voice.

Please click the book cover image to read more about David R. Stokes and his books.


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  • Caleb Pirtle

    David, you are very fortunate to find a good editor, especially one that has worked with both Stephen King and John Grisham. A good editor can turn a good book into a great book. We should all be so lucky.

  • John Douglas Chitty

    Roger wilco. When I was in Junior High, Stephen King’s books played a major role in getting me to read. Then I started writing short stories that emulated his “macabre” genre. Then after a few of those stories, and watching a few too many movies in that vein, I realized I was scaring myself to death. So I quit writing fiction, because I couldn’t think of anything that made me want to write.

    Then I got all religious and completely stopped thinking about writing fiction. I was too busy obsessing about theology. Fast forward a couple of decades, and my theological reading introduced me to the literary (though not necessarily fictitious–two words: Leland Ryken) nature of the Bible, and I started relearning how to appreciate literature and stories again. The rest of the story I haven’t gone public with yet, although this may be a hint “to him that hath ears to hear.”

    I think I saw King’s book on writing recently, but didn’t think to pick it up. Now I will. Maybe I’ll find it when I go to spend the Half-Price Books gift card I got for Christmas. Thanks for pointing this out.

    By the way, in this latter portion of my life, your writing the Shooting Salvationist has done for me what Stephen King’s books used to do for me. Thanks.

  • Darlene Jones

    Wording with Mr. Thompson must have been great.

  • I’ve read On Writing oh, half a dozen times, and always find something new. I don’t know why he’s chosen to scare people – I can’t read much of his work because I don’t like being scared – but things like Misery are iconic.

    He has been very honest about his problems – that must be very hard. Not the honesty, necessarily – that is a given for us writers – but the problems. I have an addictive personality, and I’ve always been glad I avoided the obvious traps. It’s made my life more boring – but saner.

  • Bert Carson

    Great post and the photo of Stephen King is outstanding. The eyes like the eyes of every guy in my platoon in Vietnam.
    Nice work my friend.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks, Bert. The eyes of every guy in your platoon saw horrors that Stephen King never dreamed of.

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