On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

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by Stephen King, Book Source Staff
     
 

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"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is

Overview

"Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
The subtitle to Stephen King's On Writing, his missive on the art and craft that have made him rich and famous, is "A Memoir of the Craft." And that's just what this book is. Beginning with his earliest childhood, when his mother was struggling to raise Stephen and his older brother on her own, King takes readers through his life, culminating with the 1999 tragedy that almost ended it. Interspersed with King's memories are details that highlight his burgeoning career, all of it told in King's uniquely folksy but slightly twisted style.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781417647019
Publisher:
San Val, Incorporated
Publication date:
07/01/2002
Edition description:
THIS EDITION IS INTENDED FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY
Pages:
297
Product dimensions:
4.00(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open

Earlier in this book, when writing about my brief career as a sports reporter for the Lisbon Weekly Enterprise(I was, in fact, the entire sports department; a small-town Howard Cosell), I offered an example of how the editing process works. That example was necessarily brief, and dealt with nonfiction. The passage that follows is fiction. It is completely raw, the sort of thing I feel free to do with the door shut -- it's the story undressed, standing up in nothing but its socks and undershorts. I suggest that you look at it closely before going on to the edited version.


The Hotel Story

Mike Enslin was still in the revolving door when he saw Ostermeyer, the manager of the Hotel Dolphin, sitting in one of the overstuffed lobby chairs. Mike's heart sank a little. Maybe should have brought the damned lawyer along again, after all, he thought. Well, too late now. And even if Ostermeyer had decided to throw up another roadblock or two between Mike and room 1408, that wasn't all bad; it would simply add to the story when he finally told it.

Ostermeyer saw him, got up, and was crossing the room with one pudgy hand held out as Mike left the revolving door. The Dolphin was on Sixty-first Street, around the corner from Fifth Avenue; small but smart. A man and woman dressed in evening clothes passed Mike as he reached out and took Ostermeyer's hand, switching his small overnight case to his left hand in order to do it. The woman was blonde, dressed in black, of course, and the light, flowery smell of her perfume seemed to summarize New York. On the mezzanine level, someone was playing "Night and Day" in the bar, as if to underline the summary.

"Mr. Enslin. Good evening."

"Mr. Ostermeyer. Is there a problem?"

Ostermeyer looked pained. For a moment he glanced around the small, smart lobby, as if for help. At the concierge's stand, a man was discussing theater tickets with his wife while the concierge himself watched them with a small, patient smile. At the front desk, a man with the rumpled look one only got after long hours in Business Class was discussing his reservation with a woman in a smart black suit that could itself have doubled for evening wear. It was business as usual at the Hotel Dolphin. There was help for everyone except poor Mr. Ostermeyer, who had fallen into the writer's clutches.

"Mr. Ostermeyer?" Mike repeated, feeling a little sorry for the man.

"No," Ostermeyer said at last. "No problem. But, Mr. Enslin...could I speak to you for a moment in my office?"

So, Mike thought. He wants to try one more time.

Under other circumstances he might have been impatient. Now he was not. It would help the section on room 1408, offer the proper ominous tone the readers of his books seemed to crave -- it was to be One Final Warning -- but that wasn't all. Mike Enslin hadn't been sure until now, in spite of all the backing and filling; now he was. Ostermeyer wasn't playing a part. Ostermeyer was really afraid of room 1408, and what might happen to Mike there tonight.

"Of course, Mr. Ostermeyer. Should I leave my bag at the desk, or bring it?"

"Oh, we'll bring it along, shall we?" Ostermeyer, the good host, reached for it. Yes, he still held out some hope of persuading Mike not to stay in the room. Otherwise, he would have directed Mike to the desk...or taken it there himself. "Allow me."

"I'm fine with it," Mike said. "Nothing but a change of clothes and a toothbrush."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," Mike said, holding his eyes. "I'm afraid I am."

For a moment Mike thought Ostermeyer was going to give up. He sighed, a little round man in a dark cutaway coat and a neatly knotted tie, and then he squared his shoulders again. "Very good, Mr. Enslin. Follow me."


The hotel manager had seemed tentative in the lobby, depressed, almost beaten. In his oak-paneled office, with the pictures of the hotel on the walls (the Dolphin had opened in October of 1910 -- Mike might publish without the benefit of reviews in the journals or the big-city papers, but he did his research), Ostermeyer seemed to gain assurance again. There was a Persian carpet on the floor. Two standing lamps cast a mild yellow light. A desk-lamp with a green lozenge-shaped shade stood on the desk, next to a humidor. And next to the humidor were Mike Enslin's last three books. Paperback editions, of course; there had been no hardbacks. Yet he did quite well. Mine host has been doing a little research of his own, Mike thought.

Mike sat down in one of the chairs in front of the desk. He expected Ostermeyer to sit behind the desk, where he could draw authority from it, but Ostermeyer surprised him. He sat in the other chair on what he probably thought of as the employees' side of the desk, crossed his legs, then leaned forward over his tidy little belly to touch the humidor.

"Cigar, Mr. Enslin? They're not Cuban, but they're quite good."

"No, thank you. I don't smoke."

Ostermeyer's eyes shifted to the cigarette behind Mike's right ear -- parked there on a jaunty jut the way an oldtime wisecracking New York reporter might have parked his next smoke just below his fedora with the press tag stuck in the band. The cigarette had become so much a part of him that for a moment Mike honestly didn't know what Ostermeyer was looking at. Then he remembered, laughed, took it down, looked at it himself, then looked back at Ostermeyer.

"Haven't had a cigarette in nine years," he said. "I had an older brother who died of lung cancer. I quit shortly after he died. The cigarette behind the ear..." He shrugged. "Part affectation, part superstition, I guess. Kind of like the ones you sometimes see on people's desks or walls, mounted in a little box with a sign saying break glass in case of emergency. I sometimes tell people I'll light up in case of nuclear war. Is 1408 a smoking room, Mr. Ostermeyer? Just in case nuclear war breaks out?"

"As a matter of fact, it is."

"Well," Mike said heartily, "that's one less worry in the watches of the night."

Mr. Ostermeyer sighed again, unamused, but this one didn't have the disconsolate quality of his lobby-sigh. Yes, it was the room, Mike reckoned. His room. Even this afternoon, when Mike had come accompanied by Robertson, the lawyer, Ostermeyer had seemed less flustered once they were in here. At the time Mike had thought it was partly because they were no longer drawing stares from the passing public, partly because Ostermeyer had given up. Now he knew better. It was the room. And why not? It was a room with good pictures on the walls, a good rug on the floor, and good cigars -- although not Cuban -- in the humidor. A lot of managers had no doubt conducted a lot of business in here since October of 1910; in its own way it was as New York as the blonde woman in her black off-the-shoulder dress, her smell of perfume and her unarticulated promise of sleek sex in the small hours of the morning -- New York sex. Mike himself was from Omaha, although he hadn't been back there in a lot of years.

"You still don't think I can talk you out of this idea of yours, do you?" Ostermeyer asked.

"I know you can't," Mike said, replacing the cigarette behind his ear.


What follows is revised copy of this same opening passage -- it's the story putting on its clothes, combing its hair, maybe adding just a small dash of cologne. Once these changes are incorporated into my document, I'm ready to open the door and face the world.

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King

Meet the Author


Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are Full Dark No Stars, Blockade Billy, Under the Dome, Just After Sunset, the Dark Tower novels, Cell, From a Buick 8, Everything's Eventual, Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story and Bag of Bones. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, was recently re-released in a tenth anniversary edition. King was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2007 he was inducted as a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Bangor, Maine
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
Education:
B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
Website:
http://www.stephenking.com

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On Writing 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 249 reviews.
WriterZero More than 1 year ago
Stephen King's On Writing is one of the few non-fiction books I've ever enjoyed and I will probably read it again someday for inspiration and the helpful advice it gives. The book starts out as a small memoir of King's childhood, his family life, how he first found his passion for writing, and how he used his talent and determination to get where he is today, as well as meeting his friends and his future wife. The second part of the book is divided up into chapters of how each component of a good fiction book is to be written (plot, characters, word usage, grammar, etc) and it gives the basic dos and don'ts of literature. The final part of the book is the King giving his farewell to his readers and a sneak peek at one of his other novels 1408 as well as a list of books that he liked to read and gave him inspiration. The major themes of the writing are determination, knowing what you're doing, and passion for what it is you want to do, and in this book's case: writing. I liked all the helpful advice King gave and he gave it in such a way that it was easy to understand, and I liked how he wrote the book on a personal level, like he was speaking directly to the readers themselves. I had no major dislikes of the book, only some confusion at certain parts when King was describing the structure of literature. Someone who wishes to one day become a fiction writer, particularly if they wish write the same genre King writes, this is a perfect book to read to help them get started. King gives everything you'll ever need to know about fictional writing, from character development, to grammar corrections, to dealing with writer's block. It is the absolute fiction writer's instruction manual. I would recommend reading his other works, after reading On Writing, to see how he put his own advice to work and what the end result should look like. I personally would recommend The Long Walk or Rose Red. My overall rating on this book is five out of five stars; a hard-working literary master like Stephen King deserves no less. I too wish to be a fictional writer someday, and work in the same genre as King, so this book has been incredibly inspirational to me and has helped me harden my resolve to one day become an author like King himself. This book is one I will treasure for a long time.
TheWriterRight More than 1 year ago
Just so you know, this book is good for anyone. Anyone who creates or has to press on or has worked crappy jobs wanting to go forward. I gave it a shot and have not put it down. I am a writer. Not because I'm published, but because I sit for hours at my computer pounding out words that somewhat convey a cohesive story. Steven King probably didn't publish this book years and years ago for a couple of reasons. Of course, these are just guesses. But probably because he's tired of seeing the stuff this coming generation puts out, and also because we just might not have listened. But after his great success as a writer, he is, no matter what we have to say, a bit of an expert on it. What is great about this book, what is most meaningful is the fact that King has lived the life of an average writer. His folks didn't have tons of money, and he struggled much in the way I, type A commoner, struggles. But along with his self expose, he also teaches and uplifts. His voice jumps off the page and says, "No excuses." As a writer, I think this has been wonderful. Most of us don't have mentors pushing us in one direction or another. And most creative writers that we look up to don't really have the time. King's book took the mind of a mentor and put it into our hands. You don't have to read his type of fiction or even like it to really REALLY grow from this book. Yes, he may reference from some of them, but trust me, it won't be giving you nightmares. It'll be giving you ideas, telling you that it's alright to spend time on your work, and giving you permission to dream in ways that no one has ever told you it was okay. And it's not just for writers; it's for free thinkers.
clasique More than 1 year ago
I read this book back in 2001 and I still thing that it's a wonderful book for beginning writers to study. Stephen has dominated the horror genre for quite a long time. In his book he talks about how he got started, his love for writing, and why he continues to do so. Reading it again, I still could not put this book down until I had turned the last page. This book still remains one of my "bibles" on the art and craft of writing. Stephen advises the beginning writer to "write every day no matter what." His account of the writing craft is both funny, sarcastic, witty and downright truthful. His story of the author who was found sprawled out on his desk in despair because although he wrote only seven words, he did not know in which order they should go, still resonates with me even more now that I am writing my first novel. One of the other things Stephen mentioned is the undying love and respect he has for his wife Tabitha is by far a true plus. As writers we yearn to have someone, anyone in our corner. Thank you Stephen for handing me my very own secret weapon to writing. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I remember the anecdote, when Stephen King was a little kid his grandfather said to his mother, "Why don't you shut that kid up, Ruth. When Steven opens his mouth, all his guts fall out." Well, they still do, and I, for one, am glad they do. I don't think there is anyone writing today who writes more from a place of honesty than Stephen King. Not just in his fiction or in the more informal things he writes, say, to introduce a story, but whenever he puts fingers to keys. On Writing is much more than a "Memoir of the Craft," which it surely is-it is an unequalled reading experience, period. I realized earlier today that this may well be my favorite book of all time, which is saying something. The thought crept up on me by surprise when it occurred to me I have bought four copies of On Writing over the years. Every time I finish reading it, I want to turn it over and read it again. Every time. No matter what King writes, he makes you feel he is sitting next to you, telling you what's on his mind, but no book does this more than this one. His words on the craft of writing are jewels, plain and simple, but it's the feeling that someone understands and is making the journey with you that matters.
ChadAaronSayban More than 1 year ago
For decades, Stephen King has delighted reading audiences with his shocking tales, powerful prose and frighteningly realistic characters. In the late 90s, King sat down to pen a book on how he became the writers that his is, the lessons he learned and how others can become better writers. After several long years - and a near-fatal encounter with a van - King completed On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I'm going to just come out and say it - if you are a writer, you must read this. It is both inspirational and educational. It is typical Stephen King bluntness as well and really cuts to the heart of what it takes to be a writer and why you shouldn't fear writing what you believe in no matter what other people think about it. Successful writers are successful because they are passionate about what they write - not because they are trying to make a buck. This is not a point-by-point how-to book on writing novels. There are plenty of those out there and most of them will bore you to tears. What King offers is a look inside his writing methods and some hard-won insight into what works and what doesn't in the publishing world. It is divided into several sections. The first gives a history of his writing career that is so funny I was laughing out loud more times than I can count. It is also includes a painful account of the drug and alcohol addiction that nearly killed him and the loving intervention of his wife, Tabitha. He then goes into the tools that a writer needs to develop to do the things that a writer needs to do. The third section is really the meat of the text and shows the methods that King uses to develop a story from idea to finished manuscript. The final section is a very personal account of the horrific accident that nearly ended his life and how the lifelong devotion of his wife Tabitha and his writing - specifically finishing this memoir - contributed to his return to life. On Writing is as much a deeply personal memoir as it is a dialog on getting the most out of your writing. It is a book that I will read again and again as inspiration for my own writing. I recommend it to everybody, but most especially to every aspiring writer. If this story doesn't send you to your keyboard with renewed motivation, you probably want to find a new pursuit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stephen King's memoir is fascinating, helpful, and enjoyable. From reading his fictional stories to picking up this memoir I've loved every second. This book isn't only helpful and inspiring to writers and readers, but it is also filled with humorous stories and great advice. Some points are filled with humor, sarcasm, and everything is filled with truth. I did not want to put it down. He begins the memoir with memories of his childhood. They mostly consist of amusing stories and some insight on his earliest interest in writing. Moving forward It teaches you what you basically need to know about writing, but in a way that let's you actually understand better ways to write. His advice seems more personal and helpful since he goes over examples in the text. The ideas and teachings flow seamlessly throughout the book. Even though, it was a "How To" book, I thoroughly enjoyed every page. I picked it up hoping I would enjoy it a little bit, but here I am raving about it now. Stephen King's memoir is truly spectacular.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In this non-fiction novel Stephen King reflects on the memories of his childhood and his years in school, talking about how he progressed as a writer and how he first overcame rejection and all the struggles that followed to become the author he is today. He also has a section about what to do and what not to do to become a better writer. I thought the novel was great and always kept my interest. His sarcastic perspective on various things made me feel like I wasn’t just simply reading a novel that was required for school. It made me actually want to read it. We all know how frustrating it is to be required to read a novel that doesn’t really keep your interest. I didn’t feel that way with this novel and King makes his writing clear and enjoyable. During the On Writing section of the novel he includes some examples of what one shouldn’t do when writing and some of his own examples of how he writes followed by an explanation of what should be done when writing. He even gives his own reviews about certain books and authors he respects. At the end he gives the reader a booklist of novels he recommends which include some well known titles such as J.K. Rowling. I definitely recommend On Writing for all Stephen King fans and others looking for a good non-fiction novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
janett0 More than 1 year ago
When growing up he shared many accounts that give thoughtful insight into age groups. These everyday life events could possibly be understood by any number of families. More recently within his immediate family circle there are encouraging life successes also. These successes build a progressive direction in writing while enjoying family life. Importantly he listens to others applying this to dialogue and character building in fiction. Fictional characters are not drawn directly from real life. His instruction is well explained for good storytelling, covering skills for the aspects of writing. Many examples with further reading are given in his outstanding book. I learned enlightening connections in this well written book and highly recommend it.
Another_Bibliophile More than 1 year ago
Very honest and interesting read. Writers reading this may want to purchase a copy of the classic "Elements of Style" in advance. I would warn any readers who are very commited and serious readers to bring a notebook and pen, Mr. King drops author names and book titles everywhere!
Anna8 More than 1 year ago
For once, a book on writing that tells you how to do it, and not in terms of stringing letters and words together. If you write, this book will let you know that you aren't alone in your choice of methods, there are lots of writers in the same boat you are, and it will point a way through for you.
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BAK61 More than 1 year ago
Coming in to my freshman year of college,I had literally not read a book by myself since the 8th grade. Yes, I know this is bad but none of the assigned books had really caught my attention. As soon as I started reading Stephen King's on writing I was hooked and had to keep reading each anecdote. The "C.V." section of the book was the best part of the book for me because it was funny and it related to my life. Even though the "Toolbox" and " On Writing" I also learned some helpful tips to help me in my own writing. I have already recommended this book to many family members and would also to so to any prospective readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago