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On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing (edition 2002)

by Stephen King

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10,793295259 (4.18)222
Title:On Writing
Authors:Stephen King
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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Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
This is a really great book for any aspiring writer. It's accessible to beginners and seasoned writers alike. ( )
  Ambo_O | Oct 21, 2014 |
Man's a little self-absorbed. ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
Divided into three parts, the first section covers Stephen King's early life, detailing how he struggled to make ends meet whilst never giving up hope that one day he'd become a successful author.

Part Two offers some great advice for aspiring writers. This should prove just as helpful for established authors. Mr King's success alone is enough to make his advice worth heeding, but add to this his no-nonsense approach of explaining, and you have a good guide in your hands. I've read this second part of the book twice.

Part Three depicts the life of a superstar author's real life dance with death. Having one day set off for a walk like many times before, Mr King did not expect to be knocked down by a vehicle and be seriously hospitalized. Here he details how he coped, recovered, and recommenced his life as one of the greatest horror writers of all time. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 16, 2014 |
Have you heard of this guy, Stephen King? I get the impression he's a big deal, a Young Turk of the publishing world, taking the horror genre by storm. Pay attention to him. He's going places.

Har, har.

Stephen King, of course, needs no introduction, having attained decades ago authorial, if not literary, success. Likewise, King's books don't need reviews, at least not from bloggers as insignificant as I. Some of his novels--The Stand, The Shining--are so well known that they've become pop-culture artifacts with lives of their own. I might as well review the sun or the stars. Still, even if King is beyond my reach, I think it's worth my time, and perhaps yours, to consider my encounter with him.

King, in some ways, serves as a bellwether for readers' tastes. My father read all of King's books when I was a child, and, knowing that his name was synonymous with horror, I was leery of him. Later, I looked down my nose at King, without ever having read him, of course. A friend of mine sniffs at the mere thought of reading King, despite her interest in urban fantasy, which is to say--not literature, as you might expect. King can have a polarizing effect on readers.

Let me state my own biases up front. I've only read a few of King's books: The Shining, The Gunslinger, and The Drawing of the Three. (And, now, On Writing.) I enjoyed The Shining, found The Gunslinger entertaining, and did not like at all The Drawing of the Three. In other words, my experiences with King have been hit-or-miss, and variable enough that I approach with caution the thought of reading any of his books. So it was that I bought a copy of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft several years ago, but put off starting it for fear that I'd be disappointed.

I needn't have worried.

On Writing is easily the King book I most enjoyed, which I think says more about me than it does him. King's prose here is clear and straightforward, perfectly suited to his "instructional" intent. Quite simply, the entire book is a delight to read. King breaks his memoir into three parts: First, a discussion of his childhood, with an eye toward how an author, or, at least this author, was made; an examination of King's opinions regarding what constitutes "good" writing; and, briefly, a description of the accident that nearly killed him (and which interrupted the completion of this book).

The recounting of King's childhood is pleasant enough, soaked, as it is, in nostalgia. Indeed, much of the content of this portion was familiar to me, weaned as I was on my mom and dad's stories of their mid-twentieth century childhoods. Readers may nor may not acquire any particular insight into King's career path, but, in any case, it's damned fine storytelling.

The portion of the book most likely to be of interest to readers is the second part, in which King discusses his philosophy of writing. Interestingly, there are few big surprises here. King advocates extensive reading and writing for wannabe writers. Eschew adverbs, advice I have not taken. Have a door you can shut. The tidbit I found most surprising was King's claim that he doesn't plot his books. Rather, he discovers them: The story is a preexisting entity that he "excavates."

King touches upon his accident in the last third of the book, in excruciating language. He describes, for instance, the unnatural way his lap was shifted to the right, and recalls his screams as the EMTs loaded him onto a helicopter. This portion of the book has little to do with the previous parts, but it serves to assure readers that, even after having been hit by a van, King continued to write. Indeed, writing seems to have been part of what brought him. back. Perhaps it's a balm to the aspiring writer, too: Although his first sessions back at the keyboard were painful, King soon regained his rhythm. If a man whose body had been smashed can do it, presumably you can, too.

On Writing is my favorite of the few King books I've read. There are no pretensions here, just the goal of speaking plainly and entertaining and enlightening the reader. If King's advice is simple, perhaps that's because that's all it really takes, and his honesty is refreshing. A highly recommended look into the writing practices of one of America's most successful authors.

Fun fact: While writing this review, my browser crashed every time I typed "The Stand." And then the walls started bleeding. ( )
  LancasterWays | Oct 13, 2014 |
If you're thinking about becoming a writer and are searching for a nice reference, this is the one. On Writing will give you excellent advices and hints to improve your writing skills. I'm not the best person to say that "this is the best book about writing that I've ever read" because... well, this is the first one of the style that I read. Alas, I must say that I learned lots of useful things with it and also had loads of fun.
On Writing is not just another tutorial, nor a manual that teaches rules. Disguised as Stephen King's biography, it is really motivational and fast paced. A good book for future writers and regular readers. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
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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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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)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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