Way back in issue #206, I reviewed Stephen King’s book On Writing. It was perhaps the best crash course on writing I’ve ever read, and the single most influential book on my journey as a writer. It’s also the one that I’ve always encouraged the writers I edit for to study. It’s not a road map to success, but it is a compass to navigate by.
When one of the writers I admired most, J. Michael Straczynski (henceforth JMS), announced he was releasing a book about writing, I was both excited to read it, and curious to know how it would compare.
Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer has both very similar and very different approaches to the subject. They both use personal anecdotes to help illustrate their points, and to give you an idea of the journeys they took to get where they are. They both clearly love what they do, and want you to as well.
But King’s focus is mostly on novels, while JMS leans towards the world of screenwriting for movies and television (though most of what he says still applies to novels). The first half of King’s book is a kind of biography, though one very focused on the parts of his life that had to do with writing, while JMS avoids this for the most part because he covers it in better detail in his previous book, Becoming Superman.
The two books do not take the same approach on what they choose to teach. To oversimplify, I’d say that On Writing feels like a workshop, while Becoming a Writer feels like a seminar…