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On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing (edition 2001)

by Stephen King

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11,358319244 (4.19)242
Title:On Writing
Authors:Stephen King
Info:New English Library (2001), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:eBook, On Audible, On Kindle, Your library

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On Writing by Stephen King

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Showing 1-5 of 305 (next | show all)
I've only read King's Everything's Eventual because I found the few novels I started to be too verbose; they didn't grab my attention in time so I cast them aside. I thought this book would be the same way. The beginning is a little slow going, starting with blips of his childhood that don't really provide an emotional connection. (I did like that the scenes of getting his eardrums punctured reminded me of Roald Dahl's "surgeries" in Boy). Once he got into his experiences with writing, however, I was more interested. I still found the writing to be a little clunky, ironically, and it was hard to relate to some parts that seemed to deal solely with science fiction. It was a good read though, and there were some good tips, some good lines. My favorites:
- " Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's. When it comes to actually pulling this off, the writer is much more fortunate than the filmmaker, who is almost always doomed to show too much."
- "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." ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
I put off buying/reading this book for quite a while. (Evidenced by the fact that the copy I am reviewing is the tenth anniversary edition.) I kept hearing great praise about it from people I truly respected and admired. But I am not big fan of books about how to write. And, while I am perfectly fine with Stephen King, he is not on my top ten (or maybe more) of writers I want to run right out and read. Yes, I've read and enjoyed some of his work. But other pieces have left me cold

At this point I must do a quick aside. The first novel of King's that I read was a huge disappointment. I won't share the title; no need to taint your enjoyment. But there was a section that completely turned me off (not because it was gross or vile – a completely different reason that, once again, I won't go into here). And that experience kept me from reading King's work for a very long time. Eventually I got over it and I've enjoyed some of his work (for example, the Dark Tower series) while still being indifferent to others.

So, a lot of obstacles to overcome before I finally broke down and read the book. I can't remember which recommendation it was that finally wore me down, but I decided it was time to see what all the hype was about.

Three small words to share with you: Everyone was right.

What makes this book stand out is that it actually represents a journey.

It starts with his curriculum vitae. Now normal CVs are a page. Instead, King uses it to explore his life. In other words, he uses just over 100 pages to provide an autobiography that does an incredible job of not just telling the story of his life, but telling the story of how one writer became the writer that Stephen King is. The story is warts and all. And it is compelling and interesting. And it truly lays the foundation for the exploration of writing upon which he is about to embark.

Section two is "What Writing Is". In five short pages he provides his thoughts on the idea of "writing". Ultimately, one person trying to convey concepts to a second one in the most durable form we have – the written word.

Section three: "The Toolbox". Yes, King finally gets to the nitty-gritty of writing. This can often be the most boring subject any writer tackles – words, grammmar, etc. Again, King does a great job of explaining the necessity of knowing the basics while keeping the reader entertained.

In section four, King finally gets to the title of the book: "On Writing". This covers a lot – his philosophy, his style, his approaches. And this is where the foundation of his CV becomes so important. King is only able to tell what works for him. Yes, there are some things everyone must consider. But he shows how his life has led to the way he writes, and how the life every author lives is reflected in their ability to convey thoughts through messages on paper.

And, just when you thought it was all over, the journey continues to an interesting end with the section "On Living: A Postscript." As King was writing this book, he experienced the accident that almost killed him. It is easy to see how, when your life has almost been taken, a book like this might take a back seat. And yet, his completion of the book is exactly the imprint needed to sell everything he has said before.

Others have said it. I have said it. I'll say it again. This is an excellent book. It is a must-read (and I never thought I'd say something like that about a book on how to write) for any author. But it is not just for authors. There is a great experience to be had by anyone who reads this book. ( )
  figre | Sep 21, 2015 |
What a masterpiece.

This book was surprising to me in two ways. The first was how clearly Stephen King understands what makes writing good. I knew he knew how to write well, but I wasn't expecting such an analytical approach to the finished pieces. For this alone, the book is worth buying.

The second is how he writes. His ideas come in the form of novel situations. He then adds characters and lets them do what they'd do. No plot, no roadmap for the novel, just characters being characters. This bit of insight again makes the book a worthy purchase.

Readers will love the glimpse behind the curtain, and writers will enjoy the contribution to their craft. I can't rate this book highly enough. ( )
  liso | Sep 18, 2015 |
Over the years, a lot of people have told me that I’ve got to read Stephen King’s On Writing. Now I have. And I’m prepared to pass along that bit of unsolicited advice, conditionally. If you haven’t read any other books on writing fiction, then Stephen King’s On Writing would be no bad place to start. If you have read a lot of books on writing fiction, then you probably won’t learn much new in reading this book. He urges aspiring writers to read a lot. And he urges them to write a lot. Oh, and if you have the choice, put your writing desk in the corner of the room under the eave. I’m with him 100% with the admonition to read a lot and write a lot. But I suspect the placement of your writing desk is down to personal taste. The rest of the specifically craft-related advice here is all good stuff, but not exactly rocket science. (Of course if it were also rocket science, that would be really impressive.)

What makes On Writing worth reading even if you’ve already read about a million other books on writing is the opening section, “C.V.” Through a series of brief anecdotes, King takes us on a journey through his life, and especially his writing life up to the point at which his first novel, Carrie, becomes a success. He writes with unsentimental verve about his mother and brother, his earliest writing efforts, and his various successes and failures along the way. You can’t help but be impressed by his sticktoitiveness. Even as a youth, he was relentless in writing stories. He doesn’t seem to get discouraged. And he is neither filled with unwarranted self-belief nor unwarranted self-doubt. He is a journeyman writer, skilled enough in his way and more than able to keep at it when many another hopeful might have fallen by the wayside. He doesn’t pretend that he is a great writer, but he thinks that he is a good writer and that with this book he might be able to help a few competent writers take that next step up to becoming good writers. He might be right about that. Of the millions of aspiring writers to whom this book gets recommended, I’m guessing that a few are going to make that leap. And some of them might point to this book as the turning point them. So with that possibility in mind, I’ll gently recommend it as well. And good luck! ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Sep 5, 2015 |
I loved hearing the difficulties and joys of writing. Even better were the "rules." Even though I don't write fiction, everything he says in the book applies. ( )
  tangentrider | Aug 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 305 (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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:46 -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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