Hot Best Seller

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Availability: Ready to download

"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from chil "Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. (back cover)


Compare

"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from chil "Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. (back cover)

30 review for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy okay? Getting happy.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over my lifetime who wanted to write a book. Most didn’t know what they wanted to write about, but some of them wanted to write their autobiography ”Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy okay? Getting happy.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over my lifetime who wanted to write a book. Most didn’t know what they wanted to write about, but some of them wanted to write their autobiography because their life had been so thrilling. I think my life has been reasonably boring, and it usually turns out that my life has been ten times more exciting than theirs. When situations like this happen to me, it is usually mildly amusing, but it can quickly turn to sneering when the person reveals to me that they don’t have time to read or don’t really like to read. Don’t talk to me about writing a book if you don’t read. Don’t talk to me about NOT having time to read. What does Stephen King have to say about this? ”If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around those two things….” Now, why would someone not want to read? Maybe it depends on when they were born. ”But TV came relatively late to the King household, and I’m glad. I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit.” Now someone needs to wrap me in cellophane and stand me up in a museum because I’m probably one of the youngest members of that elite group. I grew up on a farm in the middle of bumfrilling Kansas, where a twenty foot antenna could only pull in three TV channels and one of those channels rolled most of the time. TV had no real impact on my life until I left home at the age of 18 and moved to Phoenix. Thank Zeus!! Now I have young, wannabe writers writing me from all over the world, sending me links to “hilarious” YouTube videos, or they talk to me about binging all weekend on a Netflix show. They are completely enamored with spoon fed entertainment, and what they find funny is to me like paddling around in the kiddy pool of humor in the book world. I wonder why I’m so grumpy. ”A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy---’I’ll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand’---but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that way. Whenever I read a wonderful book like The Great Gatsby or meet a character like Atticus Finch, I fall on my bed and stare at the ceiling and think why am I harboring any thoughts that I can write a novel? My problem, of course, is that I don’t want to just write a novel. I want to write a fantastic novel. I don’t want to just entertain people; I want them to feel the socks ripped off their feet and have them floating around in the air around their head when they read my novel. Stephen King will go into a time when he was struggling with alcohol and using drugs, or should I say abusing drugs. He will tell you all about the accident that nearly ended his life, which happened while he was writing this book. He will talk about trials and tribulations. He will recommend books. There is a whole list of modern books in the back of this book that impressed the hell out of him and impacted his writing. The point is, of course, that even though he is probably the most famous writer on the planet, he is still learning, still enjoying reading, and still writing every day. I take a book everywhere I go. I take a book with me to work every day and read a page or two while my computer is booting up. I have a book with me all the time because I never know when I will be sitting in road work or waiting on a doctor or gleefully reading, in the glow of my flashlight beam on the pages of my book, waiting for the power to come back on at work. I live to read. I live to write. I fornicate somewhere in the middle. This has been one of the most inspiring books about writing I’ve ever read. King talked about examples of the work ethics of writers, but the one that resonated with me the most was Anthony Trollope. He used to write, EXACTLY, for two and half hours every day before going to the post office. If his writing time was up, he would stop in the middle of a sentence and head to work. If he finished a novel fifteen minutes before his time was up, he wrote THE END and started immediately into his next novel. It brought tears to my eyes because that is what it means to be a writer...dedication to the craft. If you want to get rich, go be a frilling stock broker. If you want to write, then turn the squawk box off and search for those buried fossils in the words swimming around in your head. King calls good ideas fossils. For me writing is more like when Michelangelo used to lay his head on a block of marble and listened to the voices in the stone that wanted to be freed. All you have to do is chisel those characters free, and give them life. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    Let's be honest: Stephen King is not one of the greatest writers of all time. He will never win a Pulitzer or a Nobel (he might win a Newberry though, if he ever decides to tap into the Kids/Young Adult market), and on the few times his books are featured in the New York Times Book Review, the reviewer will treat the book with a sort of haughty disdain, knowing their time could be better spent trashing Joyce Carol Oates. None of this should suggest, however, that King is not qualified to write a Let's be honest: Stephen King is not one of the greatest writers of all time. He will never win a Pulitzer or a Nobel (he might win a Newberry though, if he ever decides to tap into the Kids/Young Adult market), and on the few times his books are featured in the New York Times Book Review, the reviewer will treat the book with a sort of haughty disdain, knowing their time could be better spent trashing Joyce Carol Oates. None of this should suggest, however, that King is not qualified to write a book about how to write. Sure, he churns out pulpy horror stories that are proudly displayed in airport bookstores, but the man knows how to write a good story, and he's probably one of the most well-known, non-dead American authors in the world. So he must be doing something right. I'm not the biggest fan of King's books, but I really enjoyed On Writing. He talks about writing frankly and practically, mixing tried-and-true pieces of advice (fear the adverb, never write "replied/remarked/muttered/yelled etc" when you can write "said", and don't be afraid to kill off your favorite character) with anecdotes about how some of his books came about. I especially liked the story behind Carrie: King was working as a janitor at a high school, and one night he was cleaning the girls' locker room. He asked the other janitor what that little metal dispenser box on the wall was, and the other man replied that it was for "pussy pluggers." At the same time, King had been reading about how psychic abilities often manifest in girls just beginning to go through puberty. He combined the two ideas and wrote out a couple pages that would turn into the opening of Carrie. (if you haven't read it you should.) Many thanks to King's wife, who rescued the pages from the wastebasket after King first decided that the idea was stupid and threw them away. So, in conclusion: even if you aren't a fan of Stephen King's work, he has some very good advice about writing and storytelling, plus some good stories of his own. Sure, you can call him a sellout. But I like him. Also, he once said in an interview that Stephenie Meyer "can't write worth a darn." You stay classy, Mr. King.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    There's this magic thing that happens sometimes: I can't wait to reread a book I haven't even finished yet. It's a rare feeling, but one that happens whenever I'm in the midst of a new favourite book. I'm reading these amazing scenes, freaking out over fantastic passages, and already looking forward to the second time I'll read them, when they'll be even clearer and start to feel familiar. It's a rare occurrence, it only happens a few times a year, but it happened with On Writing. The moment it s There's this magic thing that happens sometimes: I can't wait to reread a book I haven't even finished yet. It's a rare feeling, but one that happens whenever I'm in the midst of a new favourite book. I'm reading these amazing scenes, freaking out over fantastic passages, and already looking forward to the second time I'll read them, when they'll be even clearer and start to feel familiar. It's a rare occurrence, it only happens a few times a year, but it happened with On Writing. The moment it started I knew I would be flipping through it for the rest of my life. It's that moment where you find a new favourite book. If you care about writing at all, if you want to be a writer or are fascinated by the world of writing, I absolutely recommend this gem.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jayson

    (A) 87% | Extraordinary Notes: The first novel-length book I’d ever finished over the span of one day. Done over two sittings, with a nap in between.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    So it's become very clear to me now that very few writers actually write about the craft. The only Latin American writer to do so? Mario Vargas Llosa (who took several years off of his busy novel-writing to write about his now-ex-pal Gabriel Garcia Marquez). But I suddenly forgot who the King was (no, I mean literally: I've not read him in years! High school being the prime time for Stephen King, & all): the guy has useful insight, no shit, because he is not only prolific & uber-successf So it's become very clear to me now that very few writers actually write about the craft. The only Latin American writer to do so? Mario Vargas Llosa (who took several years off of his busy novel-writing to write about his now-ex-pal Gabriel Garcia Marquez). But I suddenly forgot who the King was (no, I mean literally: I've not read him in years! High school being the prime time for Stephen King, & all): the guy has useful insight, no shit, because he is not only prolific & uber-successful (he got $400,000 for his first novel, “Carrie”!), but because, let’s all admit it, he’s pretty damn good. Maybe prose is not the forte per se, but story sure is (think of how many times he has tapped the vein of the zeitgeist to produce visceral, emblematic and modern monsters). It's interesting to compare this with the only other non-fiction I’ve read of late, “The Perpetual Orgy” & “Letters to a Young Novelist” by the already mentioned Peruvian auteur. They both (Vargas Llosa and King) tell us to seriously commit to writing, to write, write, write, WRITE, but, even more splendidly, they endorse heavy reading (duh!). I love Stephen King quotes, like this little morsel of truth: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” Take that, non-reading punks verging-perilously-close-to-ignoramuses! ! Let me recall some of the stuff I’ve learned (the rest has been absorbed as if by osmosis): 1) rewrite at least two times once the novel has been completed, 2) write & read for at least 5 hours every single day, 3) IMPORTANT: look for an editor (they are eager for new talent, King says), 4) VERY IMPORTANT: begin a serious submitting process (L. Williford has always emphasized the importance of this!), 5) write solely to your IR (Ideal Reader)… it's all super helpful. Perhaps the “Toolbox” section is its weakest part (inversely, MVL’s bag of tricks is on glorious display in “Letters” [though he never mentions the publishing process like King does])… going over rudimentary English is, I am forced to admit, quite lame. But King does seem enthusiastic throughout as only the best teachers are in the classroom—his tone is one of (slight) optimism for the developing novelist. He cheers you on (THE Stephen King!) !!! Bottom line: INVALUABLE stuff, a few (awesome for the fans) confessional tidbits, & some golly-good pointers.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wil Wheaton

    I know it's like saying "puppies are cute," but it bears repeating: everyone who wants to write, whether for a living or not, simply must read this book. On Writing did more for me as a writer than anything, and any success I've found as a storyteller can be traced to my reading it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read this shortly after finishing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, actually it would be more accurate to say I devoured it. This is full of great writing advice, and I'll need to get a copy and read it 1-2 times a year. Most helpful? The section on grammar! Seriously, I never really learned grammar. "Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being jus I read this shortly after finishing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, actually it would be more accurate to say I devoured it. This is full of great writing advice, and I'll need to get a copy and read it 1-2 times a year. Most helpful? The section on grammar! Seriously, I never really learned grammar. "Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right - as right as you can, anyway - it belongs to anyone who wants to read it." "...The writer's original perception of a character or characters may be erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." "You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly." "The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.... Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction." "Once I start work on a project, I don't stop and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind - they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale's narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death." "If I have to tell you, I lose. If, on the other hand, I can show you a silent, dirty-haired woman who compulsively gobbles cake and candy, then have you draw the conclusion that Annie is in the depressive part of a manic-depressive cycle, I win. And if I am able, even briefly, to give you a Wilkes'-eye-view of the world - if I can make you understand her madness - then perhaps I can make her someone you sympathize with or even identify with. The result? She's more frightening than ever, because she's close to real." "What you should probably be doing is writing as fast as the Gingerbread Man runs, getting that first draft down on paper while the shape of the fossil is still bright and clear in your mind." "The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better." "Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up." "Reading is the creative center of a writer's life."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The book is great and if you like writing, it is probably a must read. I could write a summary of the book, it is easy enough to summarize and there are only a few important points that King presents, but then I dont want you to get it for free. :) Go and read the book yourself, it is worth it. Rude? As King says, "...if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write The book is great and if you like writing, it is probably a must read. I could write a summary of the book, it is easy enough to summarize and there are only a few important points that King presents, but then I dont want you to get it for free. :) Go and read the book yourself, it is worth it. Rude? As King says, "...if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway." Here is are a few excerpts from the book that might inspire you to take my advice - If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. It’s what I do at night, kicked back in my blue chair. Similarly, I don’t read fiction to study the art of fiction, but simply because I like stories. Yet there is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones. It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening(or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic. That goes for reading and writing as well as for playing a musical instrument, hitting a baseball, or running the four-forty. The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate—four to six hours a day, every day—will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things and have an aptitude for them; in fact, you may be following such a program already. If you feel you need permission to do all the reading and writing your little heart desires, however, consider it hereby granted by yours truly. I love this book because it agrees with all my preconceptions. Feels nice to be on the right track. It is also quite inspiring when it comes to kicking you into putting on your writing cap. I couldn't resist putting in this anecdote about James Joyce as well: One of my favorite stories on the subject—probably more myth than truth—concerns James Joyce. According to the story, a friend came to visit him one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair. “James, what’s wrong?” the friend asked. “Is it the work?” Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at the friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always? “How many words did you get today?” the friend pursued. Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk): “Seven.” “Seven? But James . . . that’s good, at least for you!” “Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up. “I suppose it is . . . but I don’t know what order they go in!” Of course, the book is not intended just as a writing manual. Even if you never intend to write, the memoir is a wonderful graphic tale on King's life and like all his stories, it does not lack in imagination or entertainment. Meanwhile, let me get down to some actual writing...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    January 6, 2018 review I'm kicking off my fifth year on Goodreads with a re-read of the best book about writing that I've read to date. I've considered that On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft--Stephen King's contribution to the crowded field of How To Write a Novel, published in 2000--might hold this slot due to King being one of my favorite living authors. Ball players can tune out a coach who never made it in the pros quicker than a guy who did and was a superstar to boot, and I'm certainly more January 6, 2018 review I'm kicking off my fifth year on Goodreads with a re-read of the best book about writing that I've read to date. I've considered that On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft--Stephen King's contribution to the crowded field of How To Write a Novel, published in 2000--might hold this slot due to King being one of my favorite living authors. Ball players can tune out a coach who never made it in the pros quicker than a guy who did and was a superstar to boot, and I'm certainly more likely to heed the advice of a guru who didn't attain his divinity by mysterious means. The author of The Shining certainly had my attention. King begins his instruction by doing something I wish my teachers did on the first day of class; he tells us about himself. Raised by a single mother in Maine in the 1950s and '60s, King recounts his childhood, his earliest discoveries in fiction, his first forays into writing and publishing, his breakthrough debut novel Carrie some ten years later in 1974 and his near collapse from alcohol and drugs. The writing advice kicks in, covering vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style and much more. This was the book King was chipping away at in June 1999 when he was struck by a negligent driver while on an afternoon walk, and this life changing experience is recounted as well. Even when King isn't dispensing writing advice--and when he does, it's helpful to anyone from students writing a paper to writers with dreams of being the next King of Horror--simply reading his prose is a motivation and a delight. Holder of a Bachelor's of Arts in English from the University of Maine at Orono, King's manner or style has always reminded me of a character in a King novel, an English instructor perhaps, but more likely a guy who works at the hardware or auto parts store in town and who loves: 1) talking to people, and 2) helping people by sharing his expertise. King's forte is storytelling, with a minor in popular culture. -- Imitation preceded creation; I would copy Combat Casey comics word for word in my Blue Horse tablet, sometimes adding my own descriptions where they seemed appropriate. "They were camped in a big dratty farmhouse room," I might write; it was another year or two before I discovered that drat and draft were different words. During the same period I remember believing that details were dentals and that a bitch was an extremely tall woman. A son of a bitch was apt to be a basketball player. When you're six, most of your Bingo balls are still floating around in the draw-tank. -- I was born in 1947 and we didn't get our first television until 1958. The first thing I remember watching on it was Robot Monster, a film in which a guy dressed in an ape-suit with a goldfish bowl on his head--Ro-Man, he was called--ran around trying to kill the last survivors of a nuclear war. I felt this was art of quite a high nature. But TV came relatively late to the King household, and I'm glad. I am, when you stop to think about it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit. This might not be important. -- "What I don't understand, Stevie," she said, "is why you'd write junk like this in the first place. You're talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?" She had rolled up a copy of V.I.B. #1 and was brandishing it at me the way a person might brandish a rolled-up newspaper at a dog that has piddled on the rug. She waited for me to answer--to her credit, the question was not entirely rhetorical--but I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since--too many, I think--being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it. -- I wasn't having much success with my own writing, either. Horror, science fiction, and crime stories in the men's magazines were being replaced by increasingly graphic tales of sex. That was part of the trouble, but not all of it. The bigger deal was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching. I liked my coworkers and loved the kids--even the Beavis and Butt-Head types in Living with English could be interesting--but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I'd spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain. If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then. -- I had written three other novels before Carrie--Rage, The Long Walk, and The Running Man were later published. But none of them taught me the things I learned from Carrie White. The most important is that the writer's original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position. -- Put vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don't make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind if it is appropriate and colorful. -- Two pages of the passive voice--just about any business document ever written, in other words, not to mention reams of bad fiction--make me want to scream. It's weak, it's circuitous, and it's frequently torturous, as well. How about this: My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna began. Oh, man--who farted, right? A simpler way to express this idea--sweeter and more forceful, as well--might be this: My romance with Shayna began with our first kiss. I'll never forget it. I'm not in love with this because it uses with twice in four words, but at least we're out of that awful passive voice. -- The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said. If you want to see this put stringently into practice, I urge you to read or reread a novel by Larry McMurtry, the Shane of dialogue attribution. That looks damned snide on the page, but I'm speaking with complete sincerity. McMurtry has allowed few adverbial dandelions to grow on his lawn. He believes in he-said/she-said even in moments of emotional crisis (and in Larry McMurtry novels there are a lot of those.) Go and do thou likewise. -- I am approaching the heart of this book with two theses, both simple. The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments. The second is that while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one. -- Smith wasn't looking at the road on the afternoon our lives came together because his rottweiler had jumped from the very rear of his van into the back-seat area, where there was an Igloo cooler with some meat stored inside. The rottweiler's name is Bullet (Smith has another rottweiler at home; that one is named Pistol). Bullet started to nose at the lid of the cooler. Smith turned around and tried to push Bullet away. He was still looking at Bullet and pushing his head away from the cooler when he came over the top of the knoll; still looking and pushing when he struck me. Smith told friends later that he thought he'd hit "a small deer" until he noticed my bloody spectacles lying on the front seat of his van. They were knocked from my face when I tried to get out of Smith's way. The frames were bent and twisted, but the lenses were unbroken. They are the lenses I'm wearing now, as I write this. I could keep going and going with excerpts, which with only a few of the digressions that turned It into a 444,414 word kiddie high chair and Under the Dome into a 334,074 word boat anchor, are just by their free flowing honesty inspirational to anyone who seeks to communicate thought to print. Instead, I think I'll dust off my half-finished manuscript and channel the spirit of Carrie White to get to writing. January 8, 2014 review It's not every day you can buy two great books for the price of one, but with On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, readers are treated to both an engaging autobiography of one of the 20th century's most prolific novelists, and his illuminative thoughts on the craft of writing. Stephen King had been publishing for more than 25 years when this memoir arrived in 2000, and while he's probably been asked "Where do you get your ideas?" or "How do I become a novelist?" enough times over to want to either strangle someone or answer that a book, I love how balanced and unassuming his approach was in going about the latter. Rather than document the genesis of every novel he ever wrote as if they were masterpieces (most are far from it, including Cujo, which King admits he can't remember writing through the cocaine and beer), or offer novelists a definitive instruction manual on how to become a bestselling author like him, King dabs his pen in each of those inkwells with welcome doses of humility and insight. King writes about his youth -- watching his grandfather tote a giant tool box outside for the seemingly mundane task of repairing a screen door, or writing Carrie in the laundry room of the trailer he shared with his wife -- as well as his near death in 1999, when the author is struck by a distracted driver. My greatest takeaway from the sections of the book which deal with craft is King's revelation that for him, writing feels less like dreaming up stories and more like paleontology, pulling a fossil out of the ground. A story is buried somewhere. King touches on the tools a writer can use to dig it up. Whether you're a writer, or a fan of King's, or both, this memoir is like opening up a safety deposit box you've been given the key to and finding rich stuff (to borrow an expression from The Goonies) inside.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Raeleen Lemay

    I haven’t done much writing in the past few years, but reading this book made me want to get back into it. I think Stephen King’s advice will help me be more confident in my writing in the future! Loved this.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cecily

    Like the curate’s egg, this is good in parts. I can see why writers, and budding writers find this book inspirational, and fans of his oeuvre will enjoy learning how certain stories came to be. But it’s several very different books and booklets, within a single set of covers - curious that a book about writing doesn't seem to know what sort of a book it is. In one of the three forewords, King says “Most books about writing are filled with bullshit”. I found a fair bit here, too. But I also found Like the curate’s egg, this is good in parts. I can see why writers, and budding writers find this book inspirational, and fans of his oeuvre will enjoy learning how certain stories came to be. But it’s several very different books and booklets, within a single set of covers - curious that a book about writing doesn't seem to know what sort of a book it is. In one of the three forewords, King says “Most books about writing are filled with bullshit”. I found a fair bit here, too. But I also found good things, including a passionate passage about books being a sort of telepathy, culminating with the delicious: “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” This book isn’t about how to write in general, it’s about how to write like Stephen King, and for that, it may be excellent. 1. C.V. 4* (memoir, 118 pages, or 33% of the book) This is a charming scattering of snapshots of King’s childhood, and snippets of adulthood and advice; the CV of how one writer was formed. I enjoyed a peek into ordinary 1950s small-town USA. He points out that he is one of "the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit". (He was 11 when the family got their first TV.) He missed most of first grade because of ear-related health problems, so retreated into comic books and writing stories in a similar vein. His mother always encouraged him, and the importance of encouragement is the strongest message of the book. Conversely, a teacher criticised him for wasting his talent writing junk, and King remained ashamed of what he wrote until his forties. (The “junk” was a novelisation of the film of The Pit and the Pendulum, which he’d been selling at school – unaware that it was originally a short story by Poe!) His wife, Tabitha, also gets much credit: her belief in his ability and her consequent encouragement, even when they could barely pay the bills. They have much in common, but “What ties us most strongly are the words, the language, and the work of our lives.” The other key message is that there is no repository of great story ideas. They come from nowhere. The writer has to spot, recognise, and polish them, and King gives examples of how he came upon the seeds of many of his stories. King points out that even the author’s perception of his characters may be wrong (I don’t disagree, and it may be related to his not realising that he was writing about himself when he penned Jack, in The Shining). But in a foreword, he makes a more extreme generalisation, “The editor is always right”. An interesting case study is to compare Raymond Carver’s short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, in their originally published and heavily edited form with his originals, now published under the title Beginners. Sometimes I think the editor was right, but in several cases, I prefer Carver’s version. I’ve explored the differences a little in my reviews: HERE and HERE, respectively. 2. Toolbox 1* (grammar etc, 34 pages) “Writing is seduction.” Not necessarily. Reading this short section, the only thing that prevented me from throwing the book across the room was that it was borrowed from a friend. It does what most prescriptive guides do: conflates stylistic preference with grammatical rules, and makes sweeping generalisations (such as “the best form of dialogue attribution is ‘said’.”), largely ignoring the paramount importance of context and audience. It’s easy to teach and test rules, but serious writers need to cultivate an intuitive feel for language in a variety of styles, rather than being bogged down analysing parts of speech. King taught grammar, but gives examples of Tom Swifties that aren't, and keeps talking about the "passive tense", though later correctly says "passive voice". He decries it, using ludicrous, unidiomatic examples (“My first kiss will always be recalled by me”). He decries adverbs by using a convoluted passive (they “seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind”) and an adverb (saying writers use them when not expressing themselves “clearly”), and says both passives and adverbs are the resort of "timid writers". He claims, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” One is OK, but they’re like dandelions: prone to multiply. In section 3, he berates pronouns too, using a pronoun “I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer””. Why? Strunk and White’s* (in)famous rule 17, “Omit needless words”, is lauded. It’s hard to disagree with, but it’s no help with discerning which words might be needless. King says this section is short because readers probably know enough grammar already, but he then agrees with Strunk and White, that if readers don’t, “It’s too late”. So much for encouraging timid writers. And yet many find this book helpful. I’m pleased for them, but a little surprised. There are some good points. He stresses the importance of an extensive vocabulary, and says it should be acquired through reading widely, rather than conscious effort. He describes paragraphs as “maps of intent” and “the basic unit of writing” (rather than sentences). And there is a nod to context, negating much of what precedes it, “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes.” Amen to that. 3. On Writing 3* (how he writes, 143 pages, or 40%) And suddenly it’s back to memoir-ish, but with focus on the process of writing, and a smattering of prescriptive absolutes and empty homilies alongside fascinating insights and ideas. King promises “Everything I know about how to write good fiction.”, along with encouragement, but with the caveat that you can’t make a bad writer a competent one, or a good writer great, but you can make a competent writer good, as long as they master the basics in the previous section: vocabulary, grammar, and style. King stresses the importance and joy of reading, in all and any situations, developing “an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.” But for writing itself, he says you need good health (though poor health was what got him started, and he was successful when a heavy-drinking alcoholic), a stable relationship (don’t many great writers emerge from the opposite?), strict routine, and your own space (no distractions, and a door to close). “Put your desk in the corner… Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way round.” “Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme… Starting with the questions and thematic concerns is a recipe for bad fiction.” The ideas about story and plot were fascinating and liberating - in stark contrast with the straitjacket of the previous section. You need a concrete goal, but “Don’t wait for the muse” and “ Write what you know”. He lists only three components of a story: narrative, description, and dialogue. Don’t worry about plot because our lives are plotless. “Stories are found things, like fossils” and the writer has to give them somewhere to grow (fossils… growing?), thus “My books tend to be based on situation rather than story… The situation comes first… The characters… come next”. Then there’s narration, and he lets the characters figure things out – not always as he expected. Ultimately, “The story should always be the boss”. The story, not the plot. “Plot is… the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.” And “There’s a huge difference between story and plot. Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty and best kept under house arrest.” Huh? Fortunately, Bryce came to the rescue in the second comment on her review here: "Plot is a series of events. But story is about the motivations behind those events." Her example is that plot is "The king died and then the queen died." The story is "The king died and then the queen died of grief." When you’ve finished the first draft (which you should never show anyone else for comment), you have to step back, to see the wood for the trees, and figure out what the book is about. Work on a second draft, then take a break and let someone else review that. “Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story”, but you must beware of over-describing: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” That sounds wise and wonderful, but I’m unsure how to apply it. Still less, “The use of simile and other figurative language is one of the chief delights of fiction”, when you’re supposed to be hunting down adverbs, pronouns and other allegedly needless words. “It’s not about the setting… it’s always about the story.” Absolutely always? I think not. So many of my favourite works of fiction are about the setting that I have shelves called Landscape Protagonist and Sea, Islands, Coast. “One of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never to tell us a thing if you can show us.” Never? Again, it’s the absolutism I object to. And then… relax: “Try any goddam thing you like… If it works, fine. If it doesn’t toss it. Toss it even if you love it.” Hooray. 4. On Living 3* (surviving a life-threatening accident, 22 pages) This is a moving addition to recent editions (and briefer versions have been published separately). King writes of when he was out walking in 1999 and was hit by a driver who could have been from one of his books. It recounts his serious injuries, multiple operations, and slow recovery. “Writing didn’t save my live… [but] it makes my life a brighter more pleasant place.” 5. And Furthermore 3* (annotated example of first and second drafts) This has a very short story that King invites readers to edit. It is followed by an annotated version, with explanations of the suggestions. Most of them are cuts (back to “Omit needless words”). King reckons editing should trim at least 10%. The other key thing is follow-through, “If there’s a gun on the mantel in Act I, it must go off in Act III”, otherwise it will be either pointless or a deus ex machina. See Checkov’s Gun. 6. Booklists 3* (books to read, mostly fiction) There are two fiction booklists, mostly novels, but a few short story collections. It’s a varied mix of classics and modern, highbrow and less so: King’s first/main list Notes I tried to read this with an open mind. I was bored by the only other King I've read (The Shining, my review HERE), and I generally abhor the narrow prescriptivism of "How to write" guides. Most of it defied my fears – except for the grammar stylistic advice. But what do I know? I’m not a published author, let alone one as successful as Stephen King. *For a strident critique of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (beloved of many US students and largely unknown in the UK), see Prof Geoff Pullum on Elements of Style. Image source for classic Punch cartoon, “The Curate’s egg”: https://sophosnews.files.wordpress.co...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    Stephen King shares some stories of his past and some writing tips. This was either my fourth or fifth time reading this. I got it for Christmas around the turn of the century and I've buzz-sawed through it a few times before. The first time, I was just cutting my writing teeth. Now, with seven or eight first drafts of novels writing around, I came to the book with a completely different perspective. Most books about writing, as I've said before, are by people I've never heard of, and are akin to Stephen King shares some stories of his past and some writing tips. This was either my fourth or fifth time reading this. I got it for Christmas around the turn of the century and I've buzz-sawed through it a few times before. The first time, I was just cutting my writing teeth. Now, with seven or eight first drafts of novels writing around, I came to the book with a completely different perspective. Most books about writing, as I've said before, are by people I've never heard of, and are akin to a psychic handing out lottery numbers. If he or she can predict that, why aren't they using the lottery numbers for themselves? Since Stephen King is the big kahuna, I figure he could teach me a few things. The biography chapters were my favorite the first time around and were still the most fun to read. I had vague recollections of these chapters, such as little Stevie needing fluid drained from his ears, and King's substance abuse. As a man who's skated close to the substance abuse abyss a couple times over the years, his cautionary tale seemed very familiar. The writing advice was helpful but this was in no way my favorite book on writing. It seems Old Stevie makes a lot more up on the fly than I'm comfortable doing. Still, his advice on omitting needless words and the second draft being the first draft less 10% seemed helpful. Sticking with your first word choice also seems like sound advice. I'd forgotten there was a section of 1408 included, in first and second draft forms. It was an interesting look behind the curtain and made a lot of sense. Anyway, if you're looking for writing advice, you could do a lot worse than sitting at the feet of the King for a few hours and absorbing what he has to say. I'll try to apply his lessons the next time I write something. Four out of five stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grace (BURTSBOOKS)

    There is NO ONE I trust more than Stephen King when it comes to writing

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft offers an illuminating look at Stephen King's life, highlighting moments that shaped him as an author and revealing lessons he gained from decades of practice and publication. King is unapologetically himself, blending whit and honesty with sophomoric humor and the occasional curse word. For example, when discussing the sin of using passive voice, King provides an example of how not to construct a sentence, followed by the type of commentary one can expect to fi On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft offers an illuminating look at Stephen King's life, highlighting moments that shaped him as an author and revealing lessons he gained from decades of practice and publication. King is unapologetically himself, blending whit and honesty with sophomoric humor and the occasional curse word. For example, when discussing the sin of using passive voice, King provides an example of how not to construct a sentence, followed by the type of commentary one can expect to find throughout his book: How about this: My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun. Oh, man - who farted, right? When it comes to writing, King offers advice in a comprehensive manner; he is concise and straightforward in his presentation of the fundamental approaches to writing that have shaped him as an author. There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up. King explains his approach to writing and reveals, without indirectly stating, that he is a discovery writer. He goes so far as to dismiss the validity of first plotting a book before writing. This was the only element of the book that warranted a raised eyebrow. Some authors are plotters and some are discovery writers. Readers are well advised to remember that either approach to writing is acceptable. From simple stories about writing newspaper articles as a child, to the gut wrenching tale of his recovery from a near-fatal accident, Stephen King's narrative of his own life is arresting from start to finish. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a go-to book for aspiring authors, fans of Stephen King, and any artist feeling creatively stumped that would benefit from a kick in the rear.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    It's rare to find an author that adventures into writing about his craft, but Stephen King, with On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, is not one of them. Great book: good tips (best one: write something you would want to read!) on how to write along with a nice memoir. Recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    J. Kent Messum

    There are countless books out there on writing, storytelling, screenwriting, style, etc. A lot of them are too formulaic and more than a bit bloody cliche. To be honest, the majority usually prove to be a waste of time. But there are a few that are great, and 'On Writing' is definitely one of them. Stephen King is a household name, no doubt, but of all Mr. King’s books, this is the one I praise the most. Part biography, part ‘How-to’ manual, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone. Ther There are countless books out there on writing, storytelling, screenwriting, style, etc. A lot of them are too formulaic and more than a bit bloody cliche. To be honest, the majority usually prove to be a waste of time. But there are a few that are great, and 'On Writing' is definitely one of them. Stephen King is a household name, no doubt, but of all Mr. King’s books, this is the one I praise the most. Part biography, part ‘How-to’ manual, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone. There’s so much for aspiring writers to absorb in these pages. Trials and tribulations, successes and failures, riding on cloud nine and then hitting rock bottom; it’s all here. From King's humble early childhood to the tragic hit-and-run accident that almost killed him about fifteen years ago, 'On Writing' spans the majority of his life and covers the tips and tricks of the trade he picked up while pursuing his calling. Along the way he worked shitty jobs, got married, had kids, lived in a trailer (where he typed his manuscripts in an empty closet), found fame/fortune, and battled addictions with drugs and alcohol among other things. The insights provided while reading about SK’s long and lucrative career are honest and invaluable. While it might not improve your actual writing, per se, it will certainly help with your mentality on the subject. I read it years ago, and when I finally put the book down, I found myself inspired and newly determined to get my books published. When people ask me about the best books I’ve read in regards to the craft, I always cite ‘On Writing’ as the one that really lit a fire under my ass to pursue writing as a career. And it's not just writers who will mine a shit ton of personal profit out of this book. Most of what King talks about applies to all of the arts disciplines, if not life in general. At King's age and level of experience, he's acquired a good deal of wisdom. Thankfully, he decided to share it with everyone by doing what he does best. Even harsh critics of King's work and/or writing style will concede that 'On Writing' is one damn fine book. Highly recommended. *This book was one of my selections for my '5 Books That Made Me A Better Writer' piece. See which others I picked: http://jkentmessum.com/the-5-books-th...

  17. 4 out of 5

    فهد الفهد

    On Writing حصلت على هذا الكتاب وقرأته على الكندل، كأول تجربة لي مع هذا الجهاز الرائع والذي صنع بعناية للقراء، أكثر ما أعجبني في الكندل هو أنه يخبرك عن السطور التي أعجبت الكثير من الناس فقاموا بتظليلها، هكذا تتشارك القراءة مع كل من اشترى الكتاب وقرأه على الكندل مثلك. كتب ستيفن كنج عشرات الروايات والقصص، يكتب بمعدل عالٍ، وتتحول قصصه إلى أفلام شهيرة حال صدورها، في هذا الكتاب يتحدث كنج عن تجربته، عن بداياته مع الكتابة والظروف الصعبة التي مر بها، وكيف كان يعمل في وظيفتين ليعيل زوجة وطفلين، ثم يعود لي On Writing حصلت على هذا الكتاب وقرأته على الكندل، كأول تجربة لي مع هذا الجهاز الرائع والذي صنع بعناية للقراء، أكثر ما أعجبني في الكندل هو أنه يخبرك عن السطور التي أعجبت الكثير من الناس فقاموا بتظليلها، هكذا تتشارك القراءة مع كل من اشترى الكتاب وقرأه على الكندل مثلك. كتب ستيفن كنج عشرات الروايات والقصص، يكتب بمعدل عالٍ، وتتحول قصصه إلى أفلام شهيرة حال صدورها، في هذا الكتاب يتحدث كنج عن تجربته، عن بداياته مع الكتابة والظروف الصعبة التي مر بها، وكيف كان يعمل في وظيفتين ليعيل زوجة وطفلين، ثم يعود ليكتب قصصاً قصيرة على أمل أن تنشرها المجلات وتعطيه مبالغ صغيرة مقابلها، هذا قبل أن يكتب روايته الأولى ويحصل على مبلغ ضخم مقابلها، وتتسارع مسيرته الكتابية، لتصبح ثروته الآن قرابة الـ 400 مليون دولار. ستيفن كنج ليس كاتباً عظيماً، وكتبه لا تناسب الجميع، لم استطع إكمال آخر كتاب حاولت قراءته له، ولكن كتابه هذا عن الكتابة ممتاز، وأتمنى أن يحظى بترجمة محترمة.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This book on writing was even better than I expected. I loved that Stephen King shared some memories from childhood and explained how he became a writer. This book helped me knock off two goals in one: I've been trying to read the best Stephen King books (good grief, the man is prolific) and I'm trying to read more books about writing. King has good advice on ways to improve your writing, but he also has some knockout stories about his life and how they've influenced his novels. The book ends wi This book on writing was even better than I expected. I loved that Stephen King shared some memories from childhood and explained how he became a writer. This book helped me knock off two goals in one: I've been trying to read the best Stephen King books (good grief, the man is prolific) and I'm trying to read more books about writing. King has good advice on ways to improve your writing, but he also has some knockout stories about his life and how they've influenced his novels. The book ends with a moving section about the day in June 1999 when King had been out for his daily walk and was hit by a van whose driver was distracted. King was hit so forcefully that it's a miracle he wasn't killed or paralyzed. He spent weeks in the hospital. When he returned home, he decided to focus his writing energy on finishing this memoir, and I'm grateful he did. On Writing is a true gem. Highly recommended for any writers wanting advice on getting started or improving their craft, and for fans of Stephen King. Also recommended to anyone who likes books. And even if you don't like books, I'd still urge you to read this. It's just fantastic. Favorite Quotes "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut." "I'm a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don't read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. It's what I do at night, kicked back in my blue chair. Similarly, I don't read fiction to study the art of fiction, but simply because I like stories. Yet there is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones." [On writing The Stand] "At one moment I had none of this; at the next I had all of it. If there is any one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it's that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects." "It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This was amazing! Much more than I had hoped for! As a semi-fan of Stephen King and his writing (I love some of his books, I feel like a lot of the others are dragging), I didn’t really know what to get out of this non-fictional work on writing. I was curious to hear about this craft from one of the most prolific and popular authors out there, but mostly I wanted a behind-the-scenes look on what it’s like to write a book. I was surprised to find myself immersed from the very beginning, where Ste This was amazing! Much more than I had hoped for! As a semi-fan of Stephen King and his writing (I love some of his books, I feel like a lot of the others are dragging), I didn’t really know what to get out of this non-fictional work on writing. I was curious to hear about this craft from one of the most prolific and popular authors out there, but mostly I wanted a behind-the-scenes look on what it’s like to write a book. I was surprised to find myself immersed from the very beginning, where Stephen King talks about his childhood and what formed him to become a writer. This was really good and very interesting, and I devoured that part whole-heartedly. Then I came to the Toolbox-part on writing, and wow! That was fascinating! Even though I’ve always said about myself that I’m a reader, not a writer, Stephen King really gave me an urge to sit down and try and write my own book (it should be mentioned, I never actually made it that far, but the thought felt good). Reading this section of the book was a unique experience, and it inspired me in many ways - for instance, I had to take a break at some point and go watch the movie “Misery” just because I was too excited to wait for the book to arrive (the movie “Carrie” is next up). I was trying to save the last section of the book in order to have something to look forward to, but after half a day of thinking about it I had to succumb and read it. This section is about the accident Stephen King was in that nearly cost him his life. This book made me feel close to Stephen King as a writer, and I loved it for that. What does it really mean to be a writer? What does it take? What are some of the things you need to know and avoid? This book gives you a whole lot of answers and I can’t recommend it enough; whether you’re an aspiring writer or just a fan of Stephen King.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    On Writing is for me hands-down the best book I've read about the craft of writing and living the life of a writer by a writer. This is not a textbook on grammar and sentence structure. No, the subtitle very succinctly describes the contents. This is about Stephen King's journey to become a published author and his experiences in wrestling with words. To hear stories about how one of the world's most popular authors once upon a time struggled just like the rest of us mortals is refreshing. Those On Writing is for me hands-down the best book I've read about the craft of writing and living the life of a writer by a writer. This is not a textbook on grammar and sentence structure. No, the subtitle very succinctly describes the contents. This is about Stephen King's journey to become a published author and his experiences in wrestling with words. To hear stories about how one of the world's most popular authors once upon a time struggled just like the rest of us mortals is refreshing. Those stories about him just starting out were the real draw for me. They are highlighted with a sort of historic timeline, punctuated by his well-known early works. Later on in the book my attention was held by personal anecdotes, such as the time he was hit by a vehicle and nearly killed. I read this prior to having read a single book by King. In fact, at the time I read this I could be called one of King's anti-fans. My college professors imparted a very low opinion of King's work upon me and that opinion stayed with me right up until recently when I read his stuff for myself. So why did I pick up On Writing in the first place? Well, the man's ability to sell a buttload of books (a hell of a lot more than those nay-saying professors) can't be denied. Why wouldn't it be worth reading the advice of an author who had legions of rabid fans, even if I didn't think much of his writing? It would be like shooting off my nose to spite my face. Young, struggling writers, don't shoot your nose off. Read On Writing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    This is a must read for writers, readers and Stephen King fans. Fully laden with inspiration to walk the walk and start that journey of writing a story of you're own from short story to a full novel. Imagine great writers of the past like Dickens around to give advice to aspiring writers it's a real opportunity to grasp. This man, Stephen King, worked hard to make himself into a writer and had sheer determination, from working all hours to pay his college education to writing his first stories i This is a must read for writers, readers and Stephen King fans. Fully laden with inspiration to walk the walk and start that journey of writing a story of you're own from short story to a full novel. Imagine great writers of the past like Dickens around to give advice to aspiring writers it's a real opportunity to grasp. This man, Stephen King, worked hard to make himself into a writer and had sheer determination, from working all hours to pay his college education to writing his first stories in a trailer. He was a single parent child with one brother. His life story is what dreams are made of, he defeated the single parent upbringing stereotype and made things work. When he was awaiting that call from his agent on selling the paperback rights for Carrie he was only expecting around a $40'000 mark and received an astonishing $400'000 payout. He really loves to write and does mention it was 'never about the money.' His marriage is solid and that helped his career, he met his wife Tabitha at a poetry workshop and both their loves for writing was an important ingredient to their marriage. From a millworker to one of the greatest writers. He had written Running Man in a week and writes one word at a time, he tells us in his book that it's all about the story never the plot. Write what you know, fresh images and simple vocabulary believable characters graceful narration, and truth telling all the hallmarks of good writing. It is really nice to hear him say that if you don't have time to read you don't have time to write, a bad story can teach the reader so much on how not to write a story. Reading is an essential core to successful story writing. As I ponder all this advice I am also looking to try and start writing a story. He says that 1000 words a day is good and to all importantly have that room to write, cut yourself off from distractions, immerse yourself and close that door to the world and write one word at a time. It was interesting to hear of his time in London at The Brown's Hotel. He wrote at Rudyard Kipling's desk the first words of his novel Misery. Here is a photo of the table and what he said. "I wrote most of Misery by hand, sitting at Kipling's desk in Brown's Hotel in London.....Then I found out he died at the desk. That spooked me, so I quit the hotel." ---From a 1998 interview with journalist Peter Conrad Close that door, close out the world and immerse yourself in writing your story! Some quotes from the book. "Read to measure ourselves against the good and the greats and to what can be done." "If you don't have the time to read you don't have the time to write." REVIEWHERE TOO.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Johann (jobis89)

    "Books are a uniquely portable magic." This book blew my mind!!! I mean, I knew I loved Stephen King and I already knew a lot of the things you learn in this book, but to read it in his own words is even better! The biographical part of the book was truly amazing, this man has come through so much, whether it's alcoholism, the drug addiction or the accident which nearly killed him. And he's so humble and honest about all of these things. And it just makes me admire him even more. As for the actual "Books are a uniquely portable magic." This book blew my mind!!! I mean, I knew I loved Stephen King and I already knew a lot of the things you learn in this book, but to read it in his own words is even better! The biographical part of the book was truly amazing, this man has come through so much, whether it's alcoholism, the drug addiction or the accident which nearly killed him. And he's so humble and honest about all of these things. And it just makes me admire him even more. As for the actual part where he discusses writing, it's so eye-opening to get a look into how he approaches his work and his stories, and where his ideas come from. I'm by no means an aspiring writer but found it fascinating to read about the do's and don'ts of writing. Some things are fairly obvious, but other things I never would have thought of! My favourite thing about this book is basically any time he mentions his wife, Tabby. It's like you can almost feel the love and admiration radiate from the pages. These two are couple goals! I thoroughly loved every single page in the book and didn't want it to end! It was one of the best King books I've ever read. His personality and sense of humour just shine right through! Absolutely brilliant. Update: listened to the audiobook in May 2018 and it was EVEN BETTER as the man himself narrates it. Highly recommend to all Constant Readers and aspiring writers.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sagan

    This is a good read for someone who is either interested in Stephen King’s life or wants to become a writer and needs either tips to do it better or some motivation to keep going. If you don’t find yourself in these categories, skip this book. I’m the kind of person who would read this guy’s socks label if I could, so yeah, 5 stars.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    I'm a fan of Stephen King's earlier works and a lot of the classic movie adaptations. I wouldn't say I'm a superfan, but since I am working on changing my status of aspiring writer to published author, I can use all the help I can get, especially from someone as prolific and universally read as he. We all know King is a master storyteller. So it's not surprising that for much of this book, he's doing just that. The first big chunk of this book is his "C.V." - a charming memoir of his childhood wh I'm a fan of Stephen King's earlier works and a lot of the classic movie adaptations. I wouldn't say I'm a superfan, but since I am working on changing my status of aspiring writer to published author, I can use all the help I can get, especially from someone as prolific and universally read as he. We all know King is a master storyteller. So it's not surprising that for much of this book, he's doing just that. The first big chunk of this book is his "C.V." - a charming memoir of his childhood when the love for writing germinated and was encouraged by his single mother, his teenage years when he collected rejection slips from magazines, his young married life when he balanced teaching, writing, fatherhood and drinking. And then his literary breakthrough, with Carrie. After the "Toolbox" and "On Writing" sections he returns again to his story, recounting the time in 1999 when he got (almost fatally) hit by a weirdo driving a van. What I liked * he is so passionate about "the craft" * he's pretty encouraging and positive - lots of quotable quotes * he writes in a humble, humorous, accessible style * we learn a lot about his journey as a writer * he gives so much credit to his wife, Tabitha * he uses many examples to illustrate points using his own work * he considers lots of reading to be essential (and there are two great book lists at the end - I just love book lists!) Things I didn't really like * his section on the writer's toolbox was really short, with a lot of emphasis on concepts that seem a bit basic (nix on adverbs, avoid passive voice) for serious writers * he's really specific about certain things (for example, in dialogue only use 'he said' or 'she said'), which I think is limiting * he's really NOT specific about most big things (this is my main disappointment with the book). Stories for him come "quite literally from nowhere", are likened to "fossils" that just need to be dug out of the ground. I have no doubt this is true for him, but uh, thanks. I'll just go and dig the fossil, and boom, my story is complete. He mentions that he doesn't plan how his books go, they just evolve with a mind of their own. He doesn't think about symbolism, it just shows up. He doesn't think about theme, but notices that it's there after the fact. Again, I'm sure it's true - I am not going to dispute the magic involved in writing. But if it's pretty much all magic, then why write a book about it?? Actually, he does mention that any decent writer reading this book doesn't really need it, or any other book of its kind. He's not into 'how to', and isn't a fan of writing workshops or courses either (hm). Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is I was really hoping to hear more practical writing advice about structure, what makes a great story, how to create tension, memorable characters, etc and I came up somewhat lacking. That isn't what this book is setting out to do. Still, everything this guy says has worked for him, tremendously (oops! there's a pesky adverb!), and I am inspired by his deep commitment to, and joy through, the craft. You must not come lightly to the blank page. 3.5 stars

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    This is very much a book of three parts. In the first section, King provides a series of anecdotes that seem somewhat fractured and random. They loosely cover his early years, the time before he became a successful writer. Some of the tales are a little spooky, to be honest. Others clearly portray what it was like for him, his wife and his children when he was spending long hours writing whilst also holding down a day job. He had a number of jobs, some pretty menial, but he eventually settled in This is very much a book of three parts. In the first section, King provides a series of anecdotes that seem somewhat fractured and random. They loosely cover his early years, the time before he became a successful writer. Some of the tales are a little spooky, to be honest. Others clearly portray what it was like for him, his wife and his children when he was spending long hours writing whilst also holding down a day job. He had a number of jobs, some pretty menial, but he eventually settled into the role of teaching students how to write. His wife, it is evident, was a huge supporting influence: not only did she allow him the uninterrupted time to ‘do his stuff’, she also served (and still does) as the primary reader of his second drafts - nobody reads his first drafts, except him. The second section is where he talks about – or maybe lectures on – the art of writing. He first covers the basics of vocabulary, grammar, sentence and paragraph construction. He doesn’t linger over the fine detail, but he makes valid points regarding the importance of getting these elements right. He then takes the reader (and maybe prospective writer) through dialogue, character development and the need to focus on situation rather than plot. I found this last bit really interesting. He provides useful examples to illustrate his points and even an exercise for the reader with a prompt to ‘let him know’ how it went! This was the meatiest part of the book and his mantra seemed to be: read a lot and write a lot. He’s a big believer in putting in the effort and the hours – you can’t beat hard work and perseverance (that’s my paraphrasing of what seemed to be one of his key messages). He closes this section down with quite a lengthy piece on why it’s important for writers to find an agent and how to set about achieving this. The final part of the book is back to memoir, but is focused entirely on a serious road accident that almost took his life. It’s pretty harrowing and told in some detail. It’s clear that though he was seriously injured, he was actually very lucky to survive. I’m not quite sure why this was told as a stand-alone piece at the end. Maybe because the first section was all about early events that helped make him the writer he became and the accident just didn’t fit the chronology? Either way, it highlights the fact that the book does feel like a collection of bits and pieces. I listened to the audio version, read by King. He’s not the most engaging reader in the world, but there is something compelling about hearing the material read by the man himself. I enjoyed this book in audio format. In summary, it’s a book that’ll be of interest to fans of the author, who just want to know more about him, his life and his influences. It’s also something that will interest people who write or plan to write. I’ve read a few books from or about writers where some insight into their working methodology was discussed – Lawrence Block, Lee Child and Haruki Murakami amongst them – and this one stands up pretty well against the rest.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I love Stephen King. I'm not IN love with him, but I love his writing, his stories, his characters, and now, his advice: "Read a lot." (4-6 hours a day, even!) Yessir, Mr. King! Finally some advice I want to heed! OK, I should say that this is really only a small fraction of the wisdom he imparts in this book, and I neglectfully left out the "write a lot" part that immediately follows "read a lot". But I have never actually aspired to be a writer, so the reading part is good enough for me. I adm I love Stephen King. I'm not IN love with him, but I love his writing, his stories, his characters, and now, his advice: "Read a lot." (4-6 hours a day, even!) Yessir, Mr. King! Finally some advice I want to heed! OK, I should say that this is really only a small fraction of the wisdom he imparts in this book, and I neglectfully left out the "write a lot" part that immediately follows "read a lot". But I have never actually aspired to be a writer, so the reading part is good enough for me. I admire writers, sure, some more than others, but I've never thought about writing something of my own. I never really had any ideas, and if I did, I never had any follow-through on them, so they just kind of withered and died. I did take creative writing in highschool, but that doesn't count. But here we have a revelation of sorts. Writing doesn't have to be so stiff and planned and diagrammed! I always knew that King had a kind of "organic" (gosh, how cliche that word is becoming these days) writing style - he'd let the characters be themselves and come to life on their own, and let events develop based on these characters, and just see where the story takes him. Sure, I knew that, academically. But I still rather thought that he had a kind of road-map in his head for which direction things would go, and that he filled in the details along the way. Point A to Point B to Point C to Destination D. It's rather inspiring to know that's not how he does it, and that his method WORKS. Because it does work. My highschool creative writing teacher would probably cry herself to sleep every night if she knew. She of the "Plot Diagramming Is Key!" mentality. I really enjoyed the way that this book was written. It didn't feel much like reading. Most of the time, it seemed as if I was having a one-on-one with Steve himself, and he was telling his tale and giving his advice to me alone. I also felt like this, as well as Lisey's Story, is a kind of tribute to Tabitha King, for all the ways that she kept him afloat through the years. It was a little like peeking through the window into their lives. I could see their college days, their trailer with two small babies days, their slightly bigger but still small apartment with two small kids days, their big-break day. I could see the beer cans stacking up in the bin, and the drug-covered floor in the intervention. When King described his various workstations, I could see them clearly in my mind, even though he'd give us only the barest description... but then again, it's a white rabbit with a blue 8. His description of his accident, and the aftermath especially, brought tears to my eyes because, even though I knew how close the world was to losing him that day, I didn't really KNOW until he showed me. I read this in one sitting, which is a testament to King's readability, as I am not by nature a non-fiction reader. He just somehow makes stuff, life, interesting. Even something as seemingly mundane (even to a reader) as grammar rules, he makes it interesting. His personality and sense of humor shine throughout the book and lent it a personal feeling that other grammar and writing texts lack. Man, I wish I could have had him as a teacher. Those lucky bastards. I hope they appreciated every red mark he ever scribbled on their work. King loves to write. That's obvious. He's a gajillionaire and needs never work another day in his life, but he still writes. This makes me happy, because I can't imagine never reading another new Stephen King book. The day he is no longer able to write will be a tragic day indeed. But, hopefully that day will be very long in coming, and King will continue to do what he does best: Tell us stories. :)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leah Williams

    I wish I could give this book more than five stars. The first 100 or so pages were highly colored anecdotes from SK's childhood (did you know Stephen King had an obese, negligent babysitter who used to sit on his head and fart? me neither). I thought the whole book was going to be like this--a personal history intertwined with the occasional tip about persistence, and that was OK with me. That's how entertaining the first bit is. It certainly makes the book worth reading even for those uninteres I wish I could give this book more than five stars. The first 100 or so pages were highly colored anecdotes from SK's childhood (did you know Stephen King had an obese, negligent babysitter who used to sit on his head and fart? me neither). I thought the whole book was going to be like this--a personal history intertwined with the occasional tip about persistence, and that was OK with me. That's how entertaining the first bit is. It certainly makes the book worth reading even for those uninterested in learning the writing trade. The nuts and bolts writing advice is solid and practical for the beginning writer. King covers such subjects as vocabulary, grammar, characterization, symbolism, dialogue, and theme. These, he explains, belong in every writer's "toolbox." I loved this analogy and I think that King does an excellent job for the aspiring writer in explaining in a concise, non-bullshitting, "Listen-to-your-Uncle-Stevie" way that writing is complex, fun, and back-breaking hard work.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maria Clara

    No se puede negar que Stephen King sabe muy bien de lo que habla, pero yo no me siento cómoda con él. No sé, es como si al leerlo, estuviera viendo un programa en la tv con interferencias; lo siento, no sintonizo bien su pluma. Así que ni caso de esta reseña...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stepheny

    What better day to post a review for this book than on Stephen King’s birthday? Happy Birthday, ya crazy bastard. ;) Anyway- as most of the GR community knows I am the real life Annie Wilkes a huge fan of Stephen King. He has been a major influence in my life since I was about 10 years old. His writing changed my life. His books changed my mind; my way of thinking. Listen, not everyone knows this but I’m about to out myself. I am an aspiring writer. I don’t flash it, I don’t wave it out there for What better day to post a review for this book than on Stephen King’s birthday? Happy Birthday, ya crazy bastard. ;) Anyway- as most of the GR community knows I am the real life Annie Wilkes a huge fan of Stephen King. He has been a major influence in my life since I was about 10 years old. His writing changed my life. His books changed my mind; my way of thinking. Listen, not everyone knows this but I’m about to out myself. I am an aspiring writer. I don’t flash it, I don’t wave it out there for all to see; I am just me. I am insecure, I am scared and I lack the confidence it takes to put myself out there. It’s terrifying. My whole life I have been a writer. I won several awards throughout my high school career and college professors begged me to change my major and focus more on my writing. It’s just that writing for me is a hobby. I’m afraid if I focus on writing it will become a chore. So I write when the mood strikes me and don’t when it doesn’t. There are a handful of close friends on here who have read what I’ve written and have given me feedback. I even went so far as to submit a short story to www.Tor.com. As of right now, that’s enough for me. I picked up On Writing for several reasons, the first being that I’m obsessed with Stephen King. Duh! Another was because it’s listed as part memoir and I was dying to know more about his life. And lastly, I thought maybe, just maybe, he might have a few good pointers for the wannabe writer. This book. No really, you don’t understand. This book changes everything. A lot of what he says is great advice, but it’s the things he didn’t say that really resonate. I know what you’re thinking- this crazy MahFah has done lost her mind! But really- the simplicity of it all is laid out before you. It’s up to you to see it. I really can’t imagine how my life might be if my uncle had never bought me Bag of Bones. Would I have eventually picked a different one up? Would I have become the super fan that I am today? Would Stephen King be locked in my basement? I can’t answer those questions. I can only say how thankful I am that he came into my life when he did; a writer who has shaped my life in ways unimaginable. He has enriched my life and saved me countless times. Thank you, Stephen King for giving me books that make life seem like it isn’t ALL bad. I’m your #1 Fan. ;)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Char

    Although I have no intention of writing anything other than reviews, I found this book about writing to be interesting and chock full of good information. The first portion was autobiographical in nature, and that was the part I enjoyed most. Hearing about King's menial jobs and how hard he worked, combined with the drug and alcohol abuse and other obstacles he's overcome, made him seem more real to me, somehow. More like a regular guy. The parts on writing, even though I'm not an author, were h Although I have no intention of writing anything other than reviews, I found this book about writing to be interesting and chock full of good information. The first portion was autobiographical in nature, and that was the part I enjoyed most. Hearing about King's menial jobs and how hard he worked, combined with the drug and alcohol abuse and other obstacles he's overcome, made him seem more real to me, somehow. More like a regular guy. The parts on writing, even though I'm not an author, were helpful to me as a reader and a reviewer. I know that in the future I will be on the lookout for a few of the common errors mentioned herein. At the end, King goes into detail about getting hit by that van and boy, is it ever horrific. Even though he wrote Misery long before this incident, when he was talking about it, all I could think about was James Caan's battered legs and Annie Wilkes. In fact, from King's descriptions, I think his legs were in even worse shape than Caan's. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about writing, and also to those who are just curious about Stephen King and the stories behind some of his most popular books.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.