Reader reviews for On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

A down-to-earth, moving, painfully vivid description of King's life and his thoughts on the craft of writing. Not to be missed even if you're not a fan of his fiction.
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This delightful read is a fascinating account of how Stephen King became one of his generation's greatest storytellers. It is also an inspirational guide for anyone who wants to become a writer. His openness and honesty are endearing. His true-life account of almost getting killed is thrilling and heartbreaking. On the craft itself, King covers the field, from governing principles to detailed practical advice. He tells us what to him is important and what is unimportant. I have only one quibble: on page 224 of my hardback edition, King describes flashbacks as "boring and sort of corny." However, his 2006 novel "Lisey's Story" has flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks -- they are neither boring nor corny -- they're terrific!
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Having read quite a few books on writing, I now expect to disagree with some rules that writers put out there -- no joke, Stephen King is quite the master, but I'm not as offended by adverbs as he is. His process of drafting is also vastly different from mine. However, I have found that writing is more of a personal discovery, and it really does differ with each writer.There is a lot to appreciate in this book, though. I like the fact that King gives a lot of examples to prove his points. I learn so much more from examples than from simple explanations, so I really appreciated that. I also like that when King sets down a rule, he doesn't make it an absolute and even admits to falling victim to sloppy/indulgent writing himself. When he talks about how you shouldn't use adverbs, he straight-out admits that he wishes he used fewer, which is nice. It gives the book a very helpful, conversational feel instead of a "I know everything, so this is what you should do" kind of thing.The one thing that I really loved about On Writing: you can tell, throughout the entire thing how much King loves to write. He completely lays out the magic, and the utter pleasure of creating a story. I so enjoyed that. Besides giving solid writing advice, he inspires his readers by making them want to write. While reading, I kept thinking to myself, "I want to start on my story right now." Few books have that power.Anyone interested in writing should read this book. It's a fast-paced, entertaining read -- not at all like the dry reference-type book I think of when I think of "how-to" books. You'll enjoy it, you'll learn some good tips, and you'll be inspired. There's nothing more anyone can ask for.
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Say what you will about Stephen King's fiction, but in all his non-fiction - his forewords, his introductions, his EW column and this book - he's refreshingly honest, down-to-earth and easily readable. "On Writing" is part memoir and part writing guide, written as King was entering his fourth decade of being an author (and, if I'm not mistaken, had only recently been unseated by J.K. Rowling as the world's most popular author)."On Writing" begins with about a hundred pages of vignettes across King's life, beginning with his earlist memory and ending with him kicking his drug addiction in the 1980s. It moves on to a central section full of King's thoughts about writing (theme, plot, characters, dialogue etc) and advice on how to become a writer, and finishes with a section about his near-fatal 1999 car accident (painful even to read about, particularly since he chose to weave it into The Dark Tower series). One of the most interesting things throughout is his little thoughts on all kinds of things related to the trade: genre prejudice, the reliability of agents, anecdotes about writing at Rudyard Kipling's desk, and so on.King said he was aiming to write a book on writing without any bullshit, and I think he succeeded. He makes it quite clear throughout the book that there is no magic solution or bag of tricks to being a writer. You just have to work very hard. You have to write a lot and read a lot, and there's no getting around that. Creative writing classes and writing guides (including "On Writing") may help a little, but nothing will get you there in the end except hard work. Lazy people won't be writers (which I shirk from hearing, since I'm very lazy indeed).He also shoots down a common myth in the creative writing world - something almost taboo, in fact - which is that a bad writer can ever become a good writer, or that a good writer can ever become a great writer. A mediocre writer can become a good writer, but other than that, you either got it or you don't.It only took me a couple of days to breeze through, since Stephen King (being Stephen King) is quite easy to read:Grammar is not just a pain in the ass; it's the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking. Besides, all those simple sentences worked for Hemingway, didn't they? Even when he was drunk on his ass, he was a fucking genius.Whether you're a Stephen King fan, or an aspiring writer, this book is definitely worth a read. Roger Ebert (one of the greatest writers in modern America) called it the best book on writing since Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style," which I'll also have to get around to reading someday.
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Written with wit and honesty and a bit of literary snobbishness--Stephen King is entitled to his opinion and 99.9 percent of what he says about the writing process I agree with. Yes, King has talent but he has also put in his hours and works hard at what he does. What many forget, King not only started story-telling as a child, but he studied and taught literature as an adult--he knows the craft and has learned his lessons well from the masters. Best advice in the book to me is his simple mantra "Read a lot and write a lot." I love his personal memories, his honesty about his foibles are refreshingly unapologetic. He is not a victim. He never says, "Oh I didn't know what to do with my success so I drank and took drugs" A drunk is a drunk period! Wow! He was lucky enough to have his family step in and save him otherwise he could have been another brilliant but sad literary cautionary tale. He remembered the magic and the joy of writing he always got as a kid way before he had his first drink and was able to get back there. And now we all get to enjoy his victory when he shows us his latest book (chip). To date, I've read this book four times and sometimes sleep with it. So if some tabloid comes out saying that an unbalanced woman says she sleeps with Stephen King, don't worry Mrs. King, it is probably me.
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Out of the many different 'how to write' type books that I've read, this one book has done more for me than all of the others. I now compare any other book on the subject to "on writing".I enjoyed the first half of the book, it gave insight to the man himself and after getting to know him and realizing that this was a man that knew his stuff, he then offers advice. I believe that without that first part and never having read any of his stories (not into that genre) I probably would not have read a book that only offered his advice. Mr. King's book inspired me to take a new look at my writing and to try some different twists that I normally wouldn't take. I would recommend this work to anyone and have done so many times. I find it amusing that when I do recommend it to someone, their usual reaction is "Steven King? I don't want to write that kind of stuff" or along those lines anyway. However, I tell them to read it anyway and I've yet to have anyone tell me they had regretted it or that it was what they expected.To sum it up, great book, worth reading and re-reading.
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I found this book very interesting. Learned many things about Stephen King that i didn't know before. I recommend this book if you're a Stephen King fan or just interested in writing.
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It made me want to write. Damn you, Stephen King.
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This book has so many good reviews that it doesn't need another, but I just want to chime in to say it is an excellent book. Its subtitle is A Memoir of the Craft and as both memoir and rumination on writing, it succeeds admirably. Both readers and writers will benefit from reading it, and have fun, too. The fact that he had his terrible accident in the middle of writing it adds to the intimacy and significance, really, of the book.
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WARNING: Constant Reader ahead!!! ‘Constant Readers’ is the title King knighted his fans with. For me, it’s an apt description, as King’s books and short stories and essays have filled my life for the better part of three decades. When he published [On Writing] ,shortly after being run down by a reckless driver, it was the first indication that King was not retiring or fatally broken or permanently blocked. Hundreds of thousands of relieved gasps could be heard around the world, mine among them. I went directly to the book store and purchased a new, hardbound copy, ignoring my typical rule about finding one used or on remainder table. I have now read the book twice.Whether you like King’s fiction or not, [On Writing] is a wonderful book. Did you really expect me to say anything else? Okay, let me try to defend my opinion. King starts out by recounting childhood memories and events, many of which will evoke a sense of déjà vu in any Constant Reader, as he’s used many of these memories to fuel his fiction. While King insists there’s no common thread running through the stories, it’s clear that the events, good, bad, and in-between, all conspired to make him the writer and the man he is today. The stories are hilarious and sad and bittersweet. From the night young Stephen and his brother darkened a full city block to the two sad, picked-on girls who inspired [Carrie] to the tireless, brutal, blue collar ethic of his mother, desperate to make their meager funds last through another payday, to King’s alcohol and cocaine addled mid-life, you’ll be hooked.Then, King turns his eye towards the writer’s toolbox, focusing on vocabulary and grammar, relentlessly championing Strunk and White. There are a few rants, one in particular saved for adverbs and another for passive voice. Like every other author I’ve heard or read, he recommends reading everything you can get your hands on. King hammers on the simple, the basic, the spare style. If you can get by with one or two details about a character, why use seventeen. If you can get by with the first word called to mind, why thumb the Thesaurus for some substitute. After gearing up the tool-box, favoring the simple and basic forms of all of those tools, King begins to explain what writing is. For King, it is the unadulterated story, translated to the page, allowed to go where it will without any planning. Just a “What if….” carried to a conclusion. In summarizing, King returns to his own life, describing his excruciating recovery after being run over. He didn’t lose the ability or the will to write but he did suffer a healthy round of self-doubt. Coaxed on by a loving wife, King finished this book and several others, many of which have been compared to his earlier, more fundamental books. The message rings clear, writing is who King is; it lingers in every nook and cranny of his life. It’s changed and helped define his life. And he believes that writing is more than just a profession or an art; it is a tool for life, one which can help you work things out, discover and process the world around you and your place in it. Bottom Line: A great memoir, a helpful writing aid, and a thoughtful rumination on the intersection of life and writing.
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