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Overview

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, Stephen King’s critically lauded, classic bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

"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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439193631
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 07/06/2010
Edition description: Classic Edition
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 108,106
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), the short story collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, the Bill Hodges trilogy End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and now an AT&T Audience Network original television series), Doctor Sleep, and Under the Dome. His novel 11/22/63—a Hulu original television series event—was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Hometown:

Bangor, Maine

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1947

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine

Education:

B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

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

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A one-of-a-kind classic."—The Wall Street Journal

"This is a special book, animated by a unique intelligence, and filled with useful truth."—Michael Chabon

"On Writing had more useful and observant things to say about the craft than any book since Strunk and White's The Elements of Style."—Roger Ebert

“The best book on writing. Ever.”—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Points of Discussion

  1. Do you agree with Stephen King that the desire to write always starts with a love of reading?
  2. What role did Stephen King's childhood play in his evolution as a writer? Did your childhood experiences influence your desire to write?
  3. King was encouraged from a young age by his mother, who told him one of his boyhood stories was "good enough to be in a book." Was there someone in your life who encouraged your earliest efforts?
  4. At what age do you remember thinking you wanted to write? What do you remember writing when you were young?
  5. King's wife Tabitha is his "Ideal Reader," the one-person audience he has in mind when writing a first draft. When you write, do you envision a particular Ideal Reader? Who is that person and why?
  6. While King delights in the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the writing process, he concedes that good writing involves magic as well. Do you agree with King's assertion that "while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one?" To what degree can a writer be made? To what extent can writing be taught? What writerly skills do you come by naturally, and which have you had to work to acquire or improve?
  7. Discuss King's "toolbox" analogy. What "tools" do you find most indispensable when you write? Are there any you would add to King's toolbox?
  8. King believes that stories are "found things, like fossils in the ground." Discuss King's extended metaphor of "writing as excavation." Do you agree with this theory?
  9. According to King, good story ideas "seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky," and often don't ignite until they collide with another idea that also comes unbidden. Do you find that ideas for stories or writing projects come to you out of the blue, or do you have to search for them? What serves as the basis for most of your stories? A situation? A character? A moral dilemma? King recalls a dream that led him to the writing of his book Misery. Have you ever gotten a story idea from a dream? Discuss how you discovered your best ideas and how they evolved into finished stories.
  10. King describes the dangers of seeking reader response — or "opening the door" — too early or too frequently. At what stage in a writing project do you solicit critical feedback from others? When you do "open the door," who are the first readers you ask for advice? Why do you trust those readers and what are you looking to hear from them?
  11. King doesn't read in order to "study the craft" but believes that there is "a learning process going on" when he reads. Do you read books differently as a writer? Are you conscious of "the craft" as you read?
  12. In the first foreword to On Writing, King talks about the fact that no one ever asks popular writers about the language. Yet he cares passionately about language and about the art and craft of telling stories on paper. Do you think there is a false distinction between writers who write extraordinary sentences and writers who tell stories?
  13. Often, King says, "bad books have more to teach than the good ones." He believes that most writers remember the first book they put down thinking "I can do better than this." Can you remember a book that gave you that feeling? Why?
  14. King's self-imposed "production schedule" is 2,000 words a day and he suggests that all writers set a daily writing goal. What kind of discipline, if any, do you impose upon your own writing efforts? Do you always write at the same time of day? If so, when and why? Do you try to maintain a steady pace? Does adherence to a strict routine help your writing efforts?
  15. King tells a story about getting his fantasy desk, a massive oak slab that he placed in the middle of his spacious study. For six years, he sat "behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of [his] mind." After sobering up, he replaced the desk with a smaller one that he put in a corner. "Life isn't a support system for art," he figured out. "It's the other way around." Discuss King's "revelation" and the symbolism of the placement of the desk.

Introduction

A Reading Group Guide for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Points of Discussion

  1. Do you agree with Stephen King that the desire to write always starts with a love of reading?
  2. What role did Stephen King's childhood play in his evolution as a writer? Did your childhood experiences influence your desire to write?
  3. King was encouraged from a young age by his mother, who told him one of his boyhood stories was "good enough to be in a book." Was there someone in your life who encouraged your earliest efforts?
  4. At what age do you remember thinking you wanted to write? What do you remember writing when you were young?
  5. King's wife Tabitha is his "Ideal Reader," the one-person audience he has in mind when writing a first draft. When you write, do you envision a particular Ideal Reader? Who is that person and why?
  6. While King delights in the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the writing process, he concedes that good writing involves magic as well. Do you agree with King's assertion that "while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one?" To what degree can a writer be made? To what extent can writing be taught? What writerly skills do you come by naturally, and which have you had to work to acquire or improve?
  7. Discuss King's "toolbox" analogy. What "tools" do you find most indispensable when you write? Are there any you would add to King's toolbox?
  8. King believes that stories are"found things, like fossils in the ground." Discuss King's extended metaphor of "writing as excavation." Do you agree with this theory?
  9. According to King, good story ideas "seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky," and often don't ignite until they collide with another idea that also comes unbidden. Do you find that ideas for stories or writing projects come to you out of the blue, or do you have to search for them? What serves as the basis for most of your stories? A situation? A character? A moral dilemma? King recalls a dream that led him to the writing of his book Misery. Have you ever gotten a story idea from a dream? Discuss how you discovered your best ideas and how they evolved into finished stories.
  10. King describes the dangers of seeking reader response — or "opening the door" — too early or too frequently. At what stage in a writing project do you solicit critical feedback from others? When you do "open the door," who are the first readers you ask for advice? Why do you trust those readers and what are you looking to hear from them?
  11. King doesn't read in order to "study the craft" but believes that there is "a learning process going on" when he reads. Do you read books differently as a writer? Are you conscious of "the craft" as you read?
  12. In the first foreword to On Writing, King talks about the fact that no one ever asks popular writers about the language. Yet he cares passionately about language and about the art and craft of telling stories on paper. Do you think there is a false distinction between writers who write extraordinary sentences and writers who tell stories?
  13. Often, King says, "bad books have more to teach than the good ones." He believes that most writers remember the first book they put down thinking "I can do better than this." Can you remember a book that gave you that feeling? Why?
  14. King's self-imposed "production schedule" is 2,000 words a day and he suggests that all writers set a daily writing goal. What kind of discipline, if any, do you impose upon your own writing efforts? Do you always write at the same time of day? If so, when and why? Do you try to maintain a steady pace? Does adherence to a strict routine help your writing efforts?
  15. King tells a story about getting his fantasy desk, a massive oak slab that he placed in the middle of his spacious study. For six years, he sat "behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of [his] mind." After sobering up, he replaced the desk with a smaller one that he put in a corner. "Life isn't a support system for art," he figured out. "It's the other way around." Discuss King's "revelation" and the symbolism of the placement of the desk.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are 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, is also a bestseller. He was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

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On Writing 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 256 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.
severina on LibraryThing 10 days ago
Not entirely sure what I was expecting from this. More than I got. This is part memoir, part beginning writers handbook. The tips were pretty simple, but sometimes simple needs repeating. I did have a few "oh, yesss" moments... nice reminders of what not to do. The memoir part was VERY disappointing. I don't mind if King repeats stories I've read before. I *do* mind when he lifts them verbatim from a previously published book.(Reviewed February 2004)
danbarrett on LibraryThing 10 days ago
Who knew Stephen King was having such a hard time of it? I enjoyed this book a great deal, and wish he would write another with a bit more technical advice. Otherwise, this is a fascinating memoir of drug addiction with some very solid writing advice layered over it. King passes on some of his knowledge, but at the book's core is a cautionary story of tragic success that reads like any of his novels.
davidabrams on LibraryThing 10 days ago
An alternate title for Stephen King¿s new book, On Writing, could be On Drugs. It¿s the lurid details of the author¿s narcotic life that the tabloid-fed public will probably slurp up. But it¿s the sage writing advice¿the pearls of wisdom which comprise 75 percent of the 288-page book¿which I¿m carrying away. On Writing is the second work of non-fiction from the horrormeister (1980¿s Danse Macabre was the other) and it¿s written with such a breezy tone and earthy humor that you¿ll find yourself rapidly flipping pages as if you were reading about blood-sucking vampires rather than sentence-sucking adverbs. This is the book King was in the midst of penning when a near-fatal traffic accident interrupted his life in June 1999. That horrific experience is recounted in a matter-of-fact passage at the end of On Writing. King talks of taking an afternoon stroll along the side of a country road, being hit by an out-of-control van, then waking up feeling like a character in one of his novels: I¿m lying in the ditch and there¿s blood all over my face and my right leg hurts. I look down and see something I don¿t like: my lap now appears to be on sideways, as if my whole lower body had been wrenched half a turn to the right. The accident nearly ended a writing career which began in the early 1960s when King cribbed adaptations of The Pit and the Pendulum and sold them to kids in his school for a quarter apiece. (Funny to think how those same kids are now forking over 100 times that amount for his novels). The first 100 pages provide King fans with snapshots of his "odd, herky-jerky childhood," a memoir which also includes a trip to the ear doctor which holds as much terror for little Stevie King (and readers) as any werewolf or rabid dog. The details of the King of Pop Lit¿s early life are funny and, if you¿re a writer, positively inspiring¿especially as he describes selling his first novel, Carrie, when he and his wife Tabitha were hovering just above middle-class poverty. His agent calls to tell him the amount he¿s earned for the book¿s paperback rights and King collapses with happy joy in his kitchen. But with success comes drugs. Oh yes, the drugs, the nasty little bits you¿ve all come to feast on, nibbling at the corpse of the bestselling writer as if you were nothing more than sharp-toothed rodents. King bravely opens his shirt and bares his breast, especially in passages like these: I¿m an alcoholic, I thought, and there was no dissenting opinion from inside my head¿I was, after all, the guy who had written The Shining without even realizing¿that I was writing about myself. and In the spring and summer of 1986 I wrote The Tommyknockers, often working until midnight with my heart running at a hundred and thirty beats a minute and cotton swabs stuck up my nose to stem the coke-induced bleeding. Man, I knew there was a reason I didn¿t like The Tommyknockers! In the nuts-and-bolts section of the book¿the Strunk and White core of On Writing¿King gives readers plenty of other peeks behind the curtain of other bestsellers, including Misery, The Dead Zone and The Stand. The majority of On Writing¿s readers¿those who don¿t make writing their profession or, in the case of some of us, their hobby-obsession¿might find the middle of the book to be as dry as a desert. After all, who wants to read about passive verbs, dialogue, pacing, description and character building? But King makes the trip fun and funny. Then there¿s the other half of his potential readership¿the writers themselves, the lit snobs who might be saying to themselves, "A writing manual from Stephen King? You¿ve got to be kidding. Saul Bellow, John Updike, Toni Morrison maybe¿but Stephen Bloody King?" To that group, the author would probably blow a big raspberry and continue his business of handing out inspirational nuggets like candy at a parade. After all, as he writes, Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it¿s like crossing the Atla
eduscapes on LibraryThing 10 days ago
This great autobiography really contains two books. First, is a great autobiography. Second, is a wonderful look at the writing process.
brewergirl on LibraryThing 12 days ago
Not your ordinary Stephen King book. This is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to write better. There are some great insights into King's life and his other writings ... which I believe would be interesting even if I hadn't read almost all his fiction work.
digitalis on LibraryThing 12 days ago
Very funny. Love the bits of King's life (this from someone who could never read his fiction).
tracyjayhawk on LibraryThing 12 days ago
Perhaps my favorite book ever... at least non-fiction. Full of sound advice but not technical, this book is truly inspiring for anyone who wants to write. I've read this many, many times since I got it, and I always come away from it smiling and determined.
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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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