Book Review- On Writing by Stephen King & A Novel in a Year by Louise Doughty

I was given these books for my birthday and have read them both in less than a week.  I’ve had a vague idea for a while that I’d like to be a writer, but short of just putting pen to paper, I didn’t really know where to begin.  These books have both given me some direction.

Stephen King’s book, On Writing, is part memoir and part thoughts on the craft of writing.  He offers many good ideas which have helped me to think about what I need in order to write.  For example he talks about the metaphorical writers’ toolbox and what needs to be in there in order to carry out the work.  This includes not only the obvious requirements such as good grammar, vocabulary and style but also the concepts of building entire mansions one word at a time and the need to keep the entire toolbox constantly at your disposal.

Louise Doughty’s book is more concerned with how to write the bones of a novel within a year and breaks the process down into 52 manageable parts to facilitate the process.  Her book began life as a weekly newspaper column where different aspects of writing were discussed and several excellent writing exercises were set with feedback to follow two weeks later.  The book offers examples of the responses received to illustrate the concepts.

Both Stephen King and Louise Doughty say that it is essential for any writer to read broadly and copiously.  There is a learning process involved with all reading and it’s advisable to consider books that don’t immediately appeal as this increases the potential for learning how authors in different genres approach writing about obstacles or conflict.  From now onwards I will be reading from a very different perspective.

Both books were easy to read and understand.  At the end of her book, Louise Doughty encourages the reader to look back over their work and consider how far they have progressed and how they have changed as a writer.  I read through the book in a couple of sittings, intending to reread the book and carry out the exercises then.  Even having written not more than a few words while reading the book, I feel that I have learnt a great deal on the art and craft of writing a novel.  Both books are written with enthusiasm and encouragement to write something every day, even if it’s only a paragraph or two.  Suddenly writing doesn’t seem like such an impossible challenge after all.   Both books are highly recommended.

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5 Responses to Book Review- On Writing by Stephen King & A Novel in a Year by Louise Doughty

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve never read either of them. I probably should. I like that you find them encouraging.

    Do you have an idea in mind for a book or are you just boning up on the topic because you’re interested in the how-to of things?

    • Hi Ally, just learning how-to at the moment. Some of the exercises have given me ideas, but whether it comes to anything remains to be seen! Maybe I’ll do NaNoWriMo next year.

  2. Kim Bauer says:

    I’ve read “On Writing” and loved it! It was very informative as far as writing goes, but the half that was memoirs of how he became a writer… just brilliant.

  3. Older Mum says:

    Both sound very interesting especially the Stephen King book. May pop it on my Christmas (shudders at the word) wish list.

  4. I think the Louise Doughty book sounds interesting. It’s the reading broadly and copiously piece I would struggle with. Apart from holidays, I find it very difficult to get through a book these days. There always seems to be so many pressing things to do that reading seems a luxury!