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On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing (edition 2002)

by Stephen King

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10,896298259 (4.19)228
Title:On Writing
Authors:Stephen King
Info:Pocket (2002), Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:non-fiction, digital

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


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English (284)  French (3)  German (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (297)
Showing 1-5 of 284 (next | show all)
I really loved this book especially the part about writing. The chapter about publishing is out of date, but otherwise a valuable read. Thanks for sharing Stephan.
( )
  DaphneH | Dec 1, 2014 |
Stephen King's Memoir of the Craft is everything he wanted it to be. I learned surprising things from it but almost became too self-conscious, writing-on-eggshells for the next few days. But it made me regret not taking English Language and Composition as seriously as I took English Literature and Composition. Despite my hatred of horror and thrillers that make your skin crawl, my collection of Stephen King books has increased from one translation left behind by a visiting aunt, to three different novels in original English. I am so impressed and entertained by Stephen's writing, by his voice and casual style, I'm planning on reading at least these few books of his this year.

Most of what I learned from Stephen rang familiar in my ears. Only a few days previously, Neil Gaiman had been standing on stage at Carnegie saying the same words: 'Read a lot. Write a lot.' (After all, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?) Stephen also spoke for a good length about mandatory simplification (don't overwrite) and clarity (always write 'he said', 'she said'), meanwhile making fun (with quotes) of critics that say you must omit the unnecessary, finally citing a satirical remark stating that one should simply share summaries with friends and not write at all.

The most striking images left with me, aside from a vivid recounting of the places he wrote (and the site of an accident), were those of the closed and open doors of your writing room, and the role of the author as a telepath, both largely simplified in this blog post. Envisioning myself as describing things to someone in the privacy of their mind, not only jived well with the story John Green had just told at Carnegie, about books being companions in the abyss, but it works well with Stephen's notes to not over-describe. Finding balance is determined by the attention span of your audience. The role of the reader is likewise as important to Stephen as to John, who mentions it less when speaking of writing, while Stephen does tell us to whom he specifically writes: his wife. He talks of leaving the room of your writing room open when you are editing, after having kept it shut for the initial writing process. He does not go on about developing 'voice' which I had long thought far more important to writing efforts than a good understanding of style and grammar. I now have learned that voice is something that will eventually come without specifically searching for it.

Grouping all this together with culture's reliance on geniuses, on epiphanies and 'gifted folks', rebutted by Elizabeth Gilbert's TEDTalk: 'Your elusive creative genius', makes for a relaxed but still quite serious atmosphere for me to begin my writing oriented sabbatical. One should be serious and committed to the craft, without being pretentious, without procrastinating and without embarrassment. One can only rely on one's self, not expecting God or Muses to fill in the lacking je ne sais quois. It's simultaneously daunting and inspiring. Stephen King is the kind of man whom one imagines can tell a good story at a party (or, as proven, in a bestselling novel) and doesn't think this ability is divine. When one is grounded, with good knowledge and a decent head on one's shoulders, there isn't much one can't do. Determining the worth of one's best efforts, is someone else's job.

288 pp. Scribner. Paper.
  knotbox | Dec 1, 2014 |
It’s the vibrancy of his writing; it shines through everything he does. Stephen King is exceptionally well-qualified to write a book on writing. This one starts with an autobiography that uses all his skills in imagery and storytelling. Who knew how much excitement could be squeezed out of some of the mundane and god-awful jobs he had, how much imagery could be extracted from his family’s breadline existence before Carrie hit the jackpot? Stephen does. You and I would probably think our lives were too boring.

His toolbox of writing skills is another great image. Others have written or blogged the same writing tips, but Stephen taught creative writing for a living, before Carrie, and he really does know what he’s talking about. What I gained most from his explanation was permission not to plot my novels. The story evolves from the situation, from what the characters do. And I thought I was a little bit crazy to admit that the story writes itself because that is what my characters would do or say. I seem to be on the right track after all. Now to use these other tools: ditch the adverb, let the writing explain for you, or let the reader imagine from the words. Pace and theme. Practise, practise, practise. Read, read, read. I realise I have already done a lot of practising. I’ve been writing for readers for over thirty years. Sometimes I was even praised for clarity (don’t write in the passive!). It was non-fiction, but the same toolkit applies. Write for myself, then rewrite it for you. Drop ten percent of the words. It sounds good to me.

I must write more. You and I should read more. And even if you don’t want to read about writing, you should read about Stephen’s life and the inspirations for his novels.
Thank you, Stephen.
( )
  Jemima_Pett | Nov 11, 2014 |
I love this book. Every chance I get, I'll pull it out and re-read it for incentive. Steven King as a very weird sort of mind, but the way he wrote this book, gives readers and writers a true version of what goes on in a writer's mind when they compose a story. ( )
  Teresa61 | Oct 27, 2014 |
This is a really great book for any aspiring writer. It's accessible to beginners and seasoned writers alike. ( )
  Ambo_O | Oct 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 284 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
King, Stephenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Juti, RikuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knudsen, BertilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuipers, HugoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Honesty's the best policy. -- Miguel de Cervantes
Liars prosper. -- Anonymous
This book is dedicated to Amy Tan, who told me in a very simple and direct way that it was okay to write it.
First words
I was stunned by Mary Karr's memoir, The Liar's Club.
"I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs and I will shout it from the rooftops."
"... there is a huge difference between story and plot. Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty and best kept under house arrest." (page 170)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On Writing tells of

writer's background more than rules

aspirants should learn.


Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743455967, Mass Market Paperback)

Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. You're right there with the young author as he's tormented by poison ivy, gas-passing babysitters, uptight schoolmarms, and a laundry job nastier than Jack London's. It's a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. This was a child who dug Yvette Vickers from Attack of the Giant Leeches, not Sandra Dee. "I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash." But massive reading on all literary levels was a craving just as crucial, and soon King was the published author of "I Was a Teen-Age Graverobber." As a young adult raising a family in a trailer, King started a story inspired by his stint as a janitor cleaning a high-school girls locker room. He crumpled it up, but his writer wife retrieved it from the trash, and using her advice about the girl milieu and his own memories of two reviled teenage classmates who died young, he came up with Carrie. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife's intervention, which he describes). "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing."

King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft's arcane vocabulary, Hemingway's leanness, Grisham's authenticity, Richard Dooling's artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman's sentence fragments. He explains why Hart's War is a great story marred by a tin ear for dialogue, and how Elmore Leonard's Be Cool could be the antidote.

King isn't just a writer, he's a true teacher. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:30 -0400)

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Stephen King writes about his life as a writer and how his ability to write saved him after a horrifying accident that almost took his life.

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