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On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing (edition 2002)

by Stephen King

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Title:On Writing
Authors:Stephen King
Info:Pocket Books (2002), Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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Showing 1-5 of 274 (next | show all)
This book offers insight into Stephen King's early life, though processes, and his near-fatal accident. It also has some excellent tips on writing from one of the most successful writers in the business. Very inspirational! ( )
  darcy36 | Jul 8, 2014 |
Fun read. King's humor makes it a refreshing romp through the writer part of his mind, (which he himself would be the first to admit is nothing special to begin with.)

I thought the first third, with the autobiographical snippets got a bit tiresome. I also think the advice itself is nothing we have not heard before. Yet that doesn't make the advice bad, and his certainly is not. I don't agree with all of it, as i go about my own fiction writing, but you could do a lot worse than "On Writing" as a primer for how to begin the process of creating fiction. ( )
  TyUnglebower | Jun 28, 2014 |
A funny read.

Stephen King tells you what's important for a writer, and helped me see a lot where I can improve.

I would recommend this to anyone that can stand some swearing that wants to write better. ( )
  Tom_Wright | Jun 26, 2014 |
If you've ever given any thought to writing fiction (or are simply curious about the process) then this is the book for you. It is perhaps one of the best (and most readable) books on writing ever written.

In this book, King channels the English teacher he once was, and yes, there is much discussion straight out of high school English about parts of speech and the correct use of language. But sprinkled throughout are anecdotes galore about his own personal experiences that are simply golden nuggets of knowledge for any aspiring writer.

Another thing fascinating about this book is that he was about halfway through it when he had his horrific pedestrian accident. I remember it being clearly demarcated in the book, where he mentions that it happened to him, but I also recall a distinct change in tone. I remember thinking the person who kept on writing the thing after the accident was not the same person we’d already spent half the book with.

Another great thing about this book is it includes an example of his own work (a short story) from draft all the way through to final product. Again, any aspiring writer of fiction is going to want to learn from the “Master of Horror,” no?

Finally, what made (and still makes) me smile about this book is how he does not, in at least one specific instance, take his own advice. For example, in the book, King claims to be at war against the adverb, telling the aspiring writer, “The adverb is not your friend,” before going on to write this:

I can be a good sport about adverbs, though. Yes I can. With one exception: dialogue attribution. I insist that you use the adverb in dialogue attribution only in the rarest and most special of occasions . . . and not even then, if you can avoid it. Just to make sure we all know what we’re talking about, examine these three sentences:

‘Put it down!’ she shouted.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said.

In these sentences, shouted, pleaded, and said are verbs of dialogue attribution. Now look at these dubious revisions:

‘Put it down! she shouted menacingly.
‘Give it back,’ he pleaded abjectly, ‘it’s mine.’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,’ Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the three former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

However, I can't help but notice when reading Stephen King . . . well, let's just look at Chapters 23 and 24 of "The Stand," shall we?

Lloyd responded smartly.
Lloyd said dramatically.
Devins exclaimed suddenly.
Lloyd said righteously.
Lloyd said sulkily.
Devins asked quietly.
Lloyd said unconvincingly.
Lloyd said bleakly.
Lloyd said defensively.
Mathers said sincerely.

In fact (and open any one of King's books to almost any page and you'll see exactly what I mean) it is the rare instance in which King leaves the "said" alone entirely, letting the context of the scene and the character's words alone impart whatever emotion he's trying to get across. (And we wonder why his books are so long.)

Anyway, I've always found that both interesting and amusing. As an aspiring writer myself, who rarely used adverbs in his writing, you know what lesson I took from this book?

Use adverbs . . . at least every once in a while. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, no? ( )
1 vote BrendanPMyers | Jun 23, 2014 |
Written very much like his novels - basic, shallow, but readable. ( )
  rlangston | May 30, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bertil KnudsenTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Juti, RikuTranslatorsecondary 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.

(summary from another edition)

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