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On Writing

by Stephen King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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16,662487260 (4.21)345
Stephen King reflects on how his writing has helped him through difficult times and describes various aspects of the art of writing.
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Showing 1-5 of 467 (next | show all)
King presents his memoir, On Writing, using a unique mixture of instruction, inspiration, and story-telling. On Writing is not just for writers, but also for fans of King's other works and those interested in the literary world.

On Writing contains four different sections: “C.V.,” “Toolbox,” “On Writing,” and “On Living.” Each part discusses different topics from grammar to characters. “C.V,” the first section, is largely composed of autobiography in the memoir. King begins by telling stories of his childhood, continuing to his high school and college life that mark his encounters with writing. Each chapter includes a different story. King uses anecdotes through the novel to tie in advice and lessons from his personal experiences, which also keeps the reader engaged. For example, chapter 20 recounts King’s time writing for the school newspaper. He gives an excerpt of his article and the corrections from the editor. King uses this scene to restate a piece of advice his editor gave him, to “write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open”, which he continuously refers to throughout the memoir.

The next part is the shortest of all. Titled “Toolbox,” it aptly reflects the content of the section. Kings begins with another anecdote, this time about his uncle, a carpenter, and his toolbox. He uses this background to suggest the idea that to write to the best of your ability, you should have a toolbox ready. Common tools such as vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure belong on top, while verb tenses and adverbs come next, followed by mechanics and paragraph structure, then the length of the novel, creating four different layers of the toolbox. King advises to keep it simple with common vocabulary and utilize sentence fragments.

“On Writing,” section three, emphasizes the importance of practice by both reading and writing frequently. “On Writing” goes in depth about narration, description, dialogue, characters, pacing, and plot, along with the use of rhetorical strategies and their effects. While King discusses the use of symbolism and other literary devices, he also uses his own rhetorical strategies of metaphors and similes.
King compares the beginning of a novel to the discovery of a fossil. Referring back to the toolbox, plot is like a writer’s jackhammer. It will certainly free the fossil, but also break pieces in the process. Rather than let the plot drive the story, King advises to let the characters and situation lead instead.

The last section, “On Living,” reverts back to the autobiography aspect of the memoir in both past and present tense. “On Living” describes King’s experience of writing On Writing along with how writing affected his life after his nearly fatal car accident.

Overall, On Writing is an informative memoir about writing that weaves advice and storytelling into an entertaining and interesting read.
( )
  bookishconfesh | Sep 22, 2022 |
Summary: Stephen King tells the story of how he's lived his life as an author and a creator. Along the way he tries to share both his outlook on fiction writing and tips he'd recommend to authors starting out.

Things I liked:

Not too preechy and tended to acknowledge when he was being a bit opinionated.

Great personal stories, which goes a long way to avoid being one of those self help books that just seems really bleh, bleh, bleh follow these 7 simple rules.

Things I thought could be improved:

Can't think of much really, a pretty good read. Maybe relied a bit too heavily on a working knowledge of his works (so if this is the first King you read you might be a bit lost.


Highlight: I really liked his childhood story about shutting down all the power on his block when his brother convinced him to stick a metal stick in the power socket. ( )
  benkaboo | Aug 18, 2022 |
Stephen King's groceries list is probably more interesting than anything I'll ever manage to write. ( )
  AKBWrites | Aug 14, 2022 |
I am glad I went through this on audiobook because at least the narration was engaging. I doubt I would have managed to finish it otherwise.

This book was alright at first, but then I started to dislike it more and more. I must start by saying that I am not a Stephen King fan. I've read 5 or 6 of his books in an attempt to understand the love some of my friends have for his stories and since I couldn't do it I eventually gave up and decided his books were just not for me.

I picked this one up because I was very interested in knowing the different writing processes of authors and I was also curious to know why even people that don't like Stephen King's books have loved and recommended this one. Considering this, I thought I would at least enjoy it. However, I only found out that I dislike the author as much as I dislike his books.

The idea is really good. This is very clearly a memoir, but since so much of Stephen King's life revolves around writing he ends up talking about it too. There is some advice for writers, even though I don't agree with all of it. This advice is mostly for people that like his writing style and want to follow his steps. Even so, I still found his perspective on writing interesting and I liked knowing how some of his ideas were inspired by events in his life. What I didn't like was the insistence that a bad writer can never become good and that some ideas are bad for everyone (this using an unnecessary rude example of "a lesbian writing poetry about her angry boobs").

Stephen King's "humor" also doesn't work for me. It is the usual old white man humor with all the sexism and bits of racism that implies. I personally don't want to take advice from someone that doesn't know the difference between a racial slur and a curse word.

Stephen King also keeps referencing "The Elements of Style" and says that is the only book someone needs to understand grammar. So, if someone only wants to know about the writing process and is not interested in Stephen King's life they are probably better off reading just that one book.

The worst parts of the book for me were definitely the ones where Stephen King reveals himself as a person. I do value honesty a lot so at least he has that going for him, but the lack of empathy really astonished me. I must say that after this it makes sense why I don't care for his books and I get how he is able to write the disgusting scenes he does. There are already hints of how he is near the start of the book where he claims that he never liked his character Carrie and that she was partly inspired by two girls that used to go to his school and were bullied constantly. Then, he assumes that one of these girls committed suicide as an adult due to the memories of high school bullying. He never even actually knew her! He also admits that he participated on the bullying of one boy that was too poor to buy new clothes. All of this is said with no apologetic tone or show of remorse. He just used the experience of these people for his character and the reason it feels flat in the book is because he never truly got them and never experienced what they went through.

Stephen King later admits that he doesn't like character pieces and that a few lines should tell you everything about a character. So, the cartoon logic. With cartoons characters you can tell a whole lot just by looking at them if they have a good design. Those characters are serviceable in their stories, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're complex. All of this made me understand why his characters feel so flat even though so many people praise them. I am a character driven reader and I do like some character piece books so obviously I would never love the characters of someone that thinks a few lines are enough to explain all the complexities of one person. It's fine if that is what someone likes, but Stephen King talks about it as if it's a rule.

I am sure his fans will still like this book because all of the flaws I saw in it are present in all of his other works that I read. I still don't understand what the people that don't like his other books thought was so different in this one. ( )
  elderlingfae | Aug 11, 2022 |
Thoroughly enjoyed it. There's something here for readers AND aspiring writers. I have a new found appreciation for Mr. King. ( )
  btbell_lt | Aug 1, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 467 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
King, Stephenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hobbing, ErichDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juti, RikuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knudsen, BertilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuipers, HugoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekiaro, IlkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Honesty's the best policy. — Miguel de Cervantes
Liars prosper. — Anonymous
Dedication
This book is dedicated to Amy Tan, who told me in a very simple and direct way that it was okay to write it.
C. V.
First words
I was stunned by Mary Karr's memoir, The Liar's Club.
[Foreword] In the early nineties (it might have been 1992, but it's hard to remember when you're having a good time) I joined a rock-and-roll band composed mostly of writers.
[Second Foreword] This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit.
[Third Foreword] One rule of the road not directly stated elsewhere in this book: "The editor is always right."
Quotations
"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)
(p79) Look — here's a table covered with a red cloth. ... Do we see the same thing? We'd have to get together and compare notes to make absolutely sure, but I think we do. There will be necessary variations, of course: some receivers will see a cloth which is turkey red, some will see one that's scarlet, while others may see still other shades. ... and a cat with an 8, clearly marked on its back in blue ink ... This is what we're looking at, and we all see it. I didn't tell you. You didn't ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together, let alone the same room ... except we are together. We're close. We're having a meeting of the minds.
(p102) The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story ...
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Stephen King reflects on how his writing has helped him through difficult times and describes various aspects of the art of writing.

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Haiku summary
On Writing tells of

writer's background more than rules

aspirants should learn.

(legallypuzzled)

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