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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 291 (next | show all)
Stephen King's On Writing is a mess of insight and nonsense. It's part memoir, part textbook, part inspirational battle cry, part philosophical rambling. It's not quite clear what On Writing is.

If you read the book in its entirety, you'll learn that King was in the middle of writing On Writing when his near-fatal accident—the details of which are much worse than I imagined—occurred. This may explain the disjointed nature of this book. While picking up the pen again after such an accident was probably the natural course for King, writing a how-to book was probably not the most pressing.

What I liked most about King's “memoir of the craft” were the stories of his childhood and of his early writing career. Particularly memorable was the tale of how Carrie came into being and became a success. Some of King's writing advice was good, especially in regards to routine and dedication. Despite how one may feel about King as a writer, there is no doubt that the man is dedicated.

Some of King's advice showed how far he was from the aspiring writer, however. He recommends cutting ten percent of your manuscript, but ten percent isn't going to cut it for your average debut novelist. Ironically, if King is guilty of anything in his stories, it is a lack of cutting. He's a gifted storyteller—no doubt—but his editors are far too soft on him, likely because of his stature. Also, his Agent Letter is the most boring, uninspired, ineffectual piece of advice on securing an agent I have ever read. Did this really work for someone? This letter contains nearly every line I've always heard must be avoided. I'd love to know more about the author of this letter and the agents who bit.

I moved through the first half of this book rather quickly, but it just lost its steam and I had to push my way through the rest. Much of the writing advice is regurgitated from Strunk and White, so if you've read or skimmed The Elements of Style, you won't learn much new here. It's an entertaining read at times, but if you've been “in the business” for a while, don't expect revolutionary ideas. Certainly I'd recommend this one for individuals who are in the first couple years of the pursuit of writerly things. Also, it's great for King fans. Although some of the advice in the middle actually on writing may bore fans of King, there's enough wit and storytelling throughout to keep them sustained. ( )
  chrisblocker | Mar 23, 2015 |
This book is bullshit. If Stephen King followed his own advice in this book, his books would only be about 100 pages long.

He does give some good advice, in this book; don't get me wrong. For instance: write every day. Good advice, sure. Be concise, and to the point. Good advice. If you can write a sentence with fewer words and still convey the same idea, use fewer words. This is the bit that gets me. It's great advice. I use this advice. But King's writing in his books is always chock-full of filler bullshit words/paragraphs/complete chapters that don't fucking need to be there.

His novel Insomnia, for instance. 672 motherfucking pages. There's about a 100 page decent story buried in that pile of pages. It's like this for most of his books. They are just full of bullshit filler.

So, fuck Stephen King in his dirty asshole. Because, fuck man. Take your own advice, for fuck's sake, and stop filling your books with page after page of blithering fat. ( )
  gecizzle | Mar 5, 2015 |
Very nice little book from Stephen King, where he tells about his becoming and experience of a writer. Part autobiographical, with King telling about his childhood experiences of pain, childhood and adolescence writing effort and other things, part practical advice, like read and write a lot, be disciplined, have someone in mind to write for. I do not know if I learned too much about actual writing, but I liked the anecdotes and the stories anyway. Recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | Feb 24, 2015 |
This was an intersting read for me. I learned things about Stephen King I was unaware of. I learned that he is one of the better writers for a reason...because he works at it.

One of the best pieces of advice he gives in "On Writing" is to "Write with the door closed. Rewrite with it open." I find this to be true as someone who is working on several Works in Progress. I had heard about Mr. King's accident, but must say, I was unaware of just how severely he had been hurt.

On Writing is not the very best book on writing out there, but it is one of the best books, written by a writer that gives you some straight forward suggestions, and tells you to make up your own mind.

If you're a writer, you really should add this to your collection of Print books. ( )
  Sirsangel | Jan 17, 2015 |
The writing advice isn't all that the hype led me to believe, but then I'm going on 42 now so I've heard pretty much all of this before. As an aid for beginners he's done a great job of covering essential topics without overdoing it. It was reassuring at least to discover how in-synch I am with his infinitely more experienced perspective and I only disagreed on a couple of points. I'm not sure it's a great idea to leave all thinking about theme until the 2nd draft, but he probably does this as a consequence of not using an outline. Which is the other major point where I differ, but he acknowledges many writers prefer an outlining approach.

Other aspects were entertaining - the memoir portions, his freely expressed opinions about other authors, his chastising of anyone writing in order to chase a buck. In place of a full autobiography this is a good overview of at least Stephen King's early years, and the insight into his development is illuminating. These portions added a pesonal note that demonstrated where his advice was coming from. There was also some great insight into the thought process behind some (not all) of his novels up to 1999/2000, but beware of spoilers here (especially The Stand, which he pretty much outlines in full.) Concerning his novel Cujo: you know you've got talent when you can write a respectable bestseller without remembering a thing about having done so. ( )
  Cecrow | Jan 14, 2015 |
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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)

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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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