“ Author: Stephen King / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 11 October 2012 / Autobiography: yes / Genre: Literary Figures / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division / Title: On Writing / ISBN 13: 9781444723250 / ISBN 10: 1444723250 / Alternative EAN: 9780340820469 „
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===On Writing - Stephen King===
Published by New English Library
Stephen King needs little introduction. As the author of more than forty bestsellers, he is a household name. The majority of his books, more often than not in the horror/thriller category, have been made into movies of varying quality, from accepted classics such as The Shining, Misery and The Shawshank Redemption, to stinkers such as Salem's Lot and the truly awful Maximum Overdrive.
The quality of his books, meanwhile, has been much more constant. Despite softening a little with age, when you pick up a King you pretty much know what you're going to get - a character-based story set in a fictional town in Maine, USA, that goes on for a long, long time. He rarely goes outside his comfort zone but that is what has made him a bestseller - he is an expert at what he does.
This book is his second work of non-fiction (after Danse Macabre, which I haven't read), and is part autobiography and part guide for budding writers.
The first half of the book is Stephen King's recounting of his life, from his early childhood right up to his accident in 1999 - when he was hit by a van while out walking - after which he decided to write this book. After a series of anecdotes about the troubles he got into at school and his first forays into writing, it goes on to recount his early success with Carrie and then his problems with drink and drugs. A lot of it is unspectacular, for example, you could summarize his entry into the professional writing world as, "wrote some okay books that didn't get published, then wrote a good one that did", for which he received a massive 400,000 advance (for the paperback), and the rest, as they say, is there to see on the shelves of pretty much every bookshop in the world.
While fascinating, for me the second half of the book is the most interesting - the section where King talks about how he writes and the tools he believes a writer needs. As a published (short stories) but still struggling writer myself, a lot of his advice is very useful indeed.
Part two of the book is split into two sections. Part One is Toolbox, where King talks about some basic grammar rules, such as to avoid passives where possible, and to omit needless words, particularly concerning dialogue attrition. During this section he regularly references The Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White, a book which I actually have on the desk beside me as I write this and refer to from time to time. King's Toolbox section is pretty much an update of this older book written by a modern commercial fiction writer.
The second section is called On Writing, where King expresses his ideas about writing in general. This section contains some interesting points, such as that he considers paragraphs to be the building blocks with which stories are created, or how he believes it is okay to break grammar rules if it aids the flow of a story. You see those green lines that the grammar checker keeps putting under your sentences? Those are "fragments" or sentences that are lacking in basic grammatical structure, but, according to King, can add tension or streamline a narrative. As King says, (p148), "Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes".
As you might have guessed, On Writing is written very much in a personable way. King swears, uses slang language, and generally makes his points in an off-beat way that as about as far from a writing textbook as a book about writing skills and techniques can get. It's very, very readable. Despite not being King's greatest fan I've read maybe ten of his books, but this is the only one I can re-read. For a King it's short at (only!) 367 pages, but it's written in such an open, easy style that you can get through it in a matter of days.
This book inspires me to write and to write better, there is no doubt about that. However, it is very much Stephen King's opinion and for any budding writer it is always best to take all writing advice with a pinch of salt. King, for example, says that you shouldn't plot your books, you should just write and let the story come. It's all very well to say that when you're on the top of the pile looking down but plotting actually helps a lot of writers (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't). And in terms of getting published, the industry is so tight these days that if you submit a meandering, 300,000 word masterpiece it wouldn't matter how good it was because most agents/publishers would take one look at the word count and reject it immediately. Get that tightly plotted, 120,000 word thriller in though, and you might have a chance. In general, it's best to take King's own advice, and be prepared to break the rules if it helps you, even the rules that he sets.
Unless you're a budding writer or a big fan, this book might have limited appeal. King's life story is interesting but hardly earth-shattering, and if the writing advice is probably more useful for someone who has already starting trying to write rather than a complete beginner. For me, personally, though, this book has been extremely useful over the years and is no doubt one I will read several more times. King books are the type that you can read, shrug your shoulders about and then pass on to your friend, but this one isn't - I won't let On Writing out of my house, in case I might need it.
And for that reason this book gets five stars.
Also on ciao.
Stephen King's greatest achievement by far. After a serious accident Stephen, during his recovery, sat down and began writing what he believes makes a writer: the mindset, the skills and gives his own personal account on how he achieves the craft of writing.
Written as a half biography and half reference book it seems, the readers walks with Stephen through his troubles as a teacher desperately trying to write for a living to the dizzying heights of one of the most prolific and richest writers of the world. He talks of his drug addiction and how that affected him. He writes of his family and their support, whilst constantly offering advice to would be writers.
For my degree, this book was classed as recommended reading highlighting the gravitas of this work.
This book is a useful tool to the art of writing and a heart warming account of the man behind the horror. I hate his novels and short-stories, but this work shows a great beauty in the man that I could never find in his stories.
This is the first five star review I have written in ages. I am not a particular fan of horror, but I am always in interested in how writers get started. I had heard good things about this book and so when I saw it at the library I thought I would give it a go.
***What is it all about?***
This is Steven King's attempt to offer a bit of background about his life, how he came to writing and how he uses language (what he thinks is so important, yet no one ever asks about) to write his stories.
The book is split into three parts:
The first part talks about his childhood and his early love of beginning to write stories. There is a bit about his family life and it then talks about how he met his wife and began to break through into the big time with Carrie.
The second part discusses his 'Toolbox' that is to say how he uses the tools of the trade, before he even begins to write. He talks about grammar, vocabulary, adverbs (hates them in dialogue with a passion!), style, theme etc.
The third and final part of the book talks about what makes good writing. He talks about plot and outlines (which he rarely plans ahead), reading continually, ideas, storytelling, description, dialogue, revising work and the publishing process. He ends the book with a chapter he wrote for a story and then he shows the story again to show how the story was edited to make it ready to face the world.
This is not a big chunky book; in fact he states in the foreword that most books on writing are full of bullsh*t and so he tried to keep is succinct to make sure this is a book that isn't filled with it.
I totally, completely and utterly ....Oh wait stop, Steven King hates the use of lazy adverbs, so I will just say simply that I loved it! He particularly cannot stand the uses of adverbs when it comes to dialogue.
This is not a book what I would normally have read and I have to say that I devoured it in two nights. I loved his style of writing which was quite plain and to the point - with a kind of 'not suffering fools' mentality attached to it.
I am not a great fan of horror, although 'Misery' does remain one of my favourite films. The book was interesting because it made me look at language and the books that I read in a whole new light. I am now busy recognizing all the clichés and lazy writing that I just normally gloss over and now actually SEE what he is talking about. He may not be everyone's favourite writer, but there is a lot of what he advocates that makes sense.
I particularly enjoyed reading about his personal life, from his alcohol and drug addiction (which I did not know about) to his accident which nearly killed him. He was run over by a truck driver as he was walking. Whilst he was waiting for the ambulance, he can hazily remember the guy talking to him and he had this flash of 'Oh my God, I have been run over and now killed by one of the characters from my books!'.
He talks fondly about his wife and her contribution to the success he has enjoyed and offers throughout examples of what he sees as great writing, placed in the book alongside trashy writing. I really liked this too as like King said, "no one ever asks me about the language", and yes you can see what he means, when he illustrates his point in this way.
I think that if you like reading and maybe like to write a little (if only even letters or reviews), then some of what he says may amuse or even inform you. As I have said earlier, this is an easy read and you do not have to be a fan of horror to do so.
Oh and there are also stories behind where he got specific ideas for his books from and how sometimes, he pondered ending them in different ways. The one about Misery was really interesting to me. So if you are a fan of his films or his work then it is worth a read if only for that.
I got mine from the library, but it is available from Amazon for £5.49.
Having read a couple of his books, I must say that I was never overly fond of Stephen King. Horror novels are just not me. But there was always such a smooth flow, punctuated by excellent dialogue in his books that intrigued me. Having read "On Writing", I have to say that this is genuinely a "Memoir of the Craft." This book was everything I expected- and more. I would in fact describe this book as being a blend of a biography and guide to writing. The biographical part is bound to please any die-hard King fan but the techniques and styles of writing can be deemed as being extremely helpful for college students or aspiring writers.
I particularly liked King's informal style and flow. He was not at all arrogant, or stuck up, especially considering his outstanding success. His informal style seemed to make him more accessible for both fans - and readers. The book starts from his childhood but there are constant flashbacks and parallels between the present and the future. That really enhanced the feeling that King is quite an accessible person- whom one can relate to. His childhood stories can be described as being both funny and sad. In terms of how it contributed to his writing career, I would say that it all started in his childhood. I was extremely impressed by the manner in which he described how despite rejections, he kept on writing, and sending out manuscripts and even selling to his friends at times- among many other instances.
The tips and advices he gives to aspiring writers have been quite lifesaving for me. I'm currently majoring in English and I need to write a lot. That book really contained tips for everything that has to do with writing- how to get over writer's block, writing even when you don't feel like it, the proper techniques and styles, and how to construct a proper sentence (among numerous other tips). This is most definitely a precious commodity for anyone who has to write on a daily basis.
Another thing that I liked about this book was the blend of the Working Celebrity to the Normal, Average Steve King. He stands out as being someone who really masters his craft during the bits where he explains about writing. From another perspective, he stands as a regular guy during the paragraphs where he talks about his personal life- including the horrific accident that he had. One note of warning, everything is described into details and it was quite brutal for me to read about the accident. King certainly does not mince his words in this book!
Overall, a highly recommended one. I'll award five stars to this book without any second thoughts!
Thanks for reading!
"On Writing - a memoir of the craft" by Stephen King, is part auto-biography, part instruction manual.
Published by the New England Library, the price on the cover states £6.99, however we bought this from a second hand stall so it cost around 50 pence.
This is the softback edition and the ISBN number, should you wish to track down a copy for yourself, is:
It is remarked on the back cover that the author photograph is taken by one Tabitha King- this is Stephen King's wife, also a writer, and as you read the book, you will learn that she is the centre of his universe. The way he talks about her is never anything less than warm, tender and loving.
This book is around 400 pages long, and although it purports to be about the craft of writing, it is at the same time, an autobiography.
Most of us, I am sure, are aware of King's normal genre, either through reading his books or seeing the film adaptations of them - who hasn't seen Carrie, The Shining and Misery, for example?
But this is something completely different: Here, he weaves a different kind of magic - he manages to tell his life story while simultaneously giving writing lessons to us, the mass readership, who hang off his every word.
And guess what - when he's not being horrific, he's really amusing and witty.
He comes across as a laid-back regular guy, who can't believe his luck.
His life story is fairly interesting, although nothing too terrible has happened to him in his childhood, apparently (as I thought it must have done, to create such a dark mind!).
But the way he tells it, it becomes really interesting and drily funny.
He tells of his peripatetic childhood with his mother and brother, his early attempts to break into writing, and how he first became an English teacher until the day when one of his manuscripts was accepted to be produced as a novel. (It was 'Carrie' by the way!).
There are woven into this, tips and tricks of how to write, and more importantly, what not to do. For example, he explains how, for inspiration for the characters in 'Carrie', he used an amalgam of girls he remembered from his high school days. He uses this technique a lot it seems, so a lot of characterisation is based on real people.
Later on in the book, he tells the fully story of his 1999 accident, in which he was hit by a dangerous driver, while out walking near his home. More familiar territory for him, he goes into graphic detail of his terrible injuries, and his consequent recovery.
He was apparently halfway through writing this book when the event took place, so it's very timely.
Overall, I wasn't expecting great things from this little book, but it turns out that it's a really good read for anyone who is a Stephen King fan, or an aspiring writer, or both.
I was thirteen when I first picked this book up. I had an interest in creative writing and making a career out of it. I hadn't read any of King's books beforehand but thought I'd give it a go and I've been a King fan ever since.
The book is part autobiography and part writing guide.
King tells of his upbringing in Maine, how he started a newspaper with his brother and how he begun writing. He also tells of the other jobs he had whilst trying to get published and how he met his wife Tabitha at university.
The book also mentions the car accident that King was invovled in and the recovery process that followed.
I enjoyed this part of the book as I feel every writer can benefit from reading another writer's story and see that fame doesn't always happen over night. King was also candid in his accounts and didn't try to sugar-coat anything.
The Writing Advice
King is known throughout the world for writing bestselling horror novels, in this section of the book he shares his techniques and his advice for other writers.
Such as a writer must read as much as possible to truly learn how to write and make a compelling story. He also discusses the process of editing, in which he gives examples from his own work which I found intriguing.
The book is a reasonable price for the information that's given. In a way it's better than some of the other 'guide to writing' books as it's a personal journey rather than just a faceless writer.
This is a good book for anyone who's not interested in writing either, any fan of Stephen King will enjoy this and it would make a good gift for birthdays or christmas.
I could waffle on for thousands of words about 'On Writing' and Stephen King but if you haven't got the time or inclination to wade through to the end of this review, just read this bit: if you want to be a writer, READ THIS BOOK. I?m almost tempted to stop there (almost, but not quite!), as I don?t feel any review can do it justice. I have never been a Stephen King fan, as I?m not into horror and thought that was all he wrote. When I came home from the library carrying this book, my husband saw the name of the author and gasped in dismay, wondering how he was going to cope with my nightmares after reading a Stephen King horror (he?s read a few). He was very relieved to learn it was book about writing. This is a well-written book, packed with interest, information and advice. One of the best snippets I liked (which I have put on a card by my computer) is about writing courses : ?It is the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster?s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters.? Classic. He doesn?t slate other books on writing (well, not all of them anyway), and recommends ?The Elements of Style? by William Strunk Jr & E.B. White King has a few themes/golden rules that he has stuck by and which have brought him success. These condense down to: 1. Read a lot - obvious really, but he goes into great detail about why in a much more convincing way than I could cover here. 2. Write a lot - if you want to be a runner, you run. Want to be a writer, don?t talk about it, just do it. 3. Edit ruthlessly - take out unnecessary words, especially adverbs and remember this magic formula : 2nd draft = 1st draft - 10% (advice given to him by a publisher) He gives his C.V. (obviously it was an edited British version of this book I managed to get hold of, us being too thick to understand what Resume means), meaning a bit of his life story and how he got into writing. He has one brother
and was brought up by a single-parent mother. She sounded quite a character. It wasn?t a rich childhood in terms of money but he packed in a lot of experience - and a lot of reading and writing, thanks to childhood illnesses (and a horrific run-in with a doctor with a large needle - don?t read it if you are squeamish). He has more than a tentative grasp of the English language. Firstly because he was well-educated, secondly because he was an English teacher and thirdly (and most importantly) because he has a tangible LOVE of language. As a young, sick, housebound child, he liked to copy out stories from his comics, changing/improving them as he did so. He showed one to his mother, who initially thought he had written it himself and was disappointed to learn he hadn?t. Her response? ?Write one of your own Stevie.? A suggestion that was, years later, to change publishing history. King?s reaction was ?an immense feeling of POSSIBILITY at the idea, as if I had been ushered into a vast building filled with closed doors and had been given leave to open any I liked. There were more doors than a person could ever open in a lifetime.? What a great approach to writing - and possibly the reason why he loves his craft so much and is so prolific. Incidentally, King?s mother lived to see his first novel, Carrie, published - just. A copy (which had been read to her, she was too ill by that time to read herself) was on the night-stand when she died. He isn?t wild about television. The family didn?t get one until he was 11, so he didn?t grow up goggle-eyed. He says, about that, ?I am a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit.? Never afraid to call a spade a f**king spade, is our Stephen. He has a good explanation for that, too, which I don?t have space to go into here or I?ll end up just quoting most of the book.
He started writing short stories and submitting them to sci-fi and mystery magazines. He kept a spike full of pink rejection slips. One slip had a particularly curt comment scribbled on it: ?Don?t staple manuscripts. Loose pages plus paperclip = correct way to submit copy.? He called that advice cold but useful. He did get a more helpful one, though, which he said brightened his winter: ?This is good. Not for us, but good. You have talent. Submit again.? He says that after he was published as a novelist, and getting some publicity, he submitted the same stories to some of those magazines again. Curiously, they accepted them then! He takes the mystique out of the writing business, without dumbing it down. Actually, I was surprised at his intellect, and his ability to convey complex things in a highly understandable way. It wouldn?t be too much of an exaggeration to say that reading this book has changed my life. I have been suffering from an extended period of writer?s block, due to illness. Since reading this, I have begun writing again. Yay! This is partly because the book is encouraging, understandable and easy to read (and it made me feel NORMAL for probably the first time - I?m not mad, I?m a writer!), but also because he goes into some detail of the bad accident he had in 1999 and his recovery. It was hard for him to start writing again, it didn?t come easily. ?The first 500 words were uniquely terrifying - I stepped from one word to the next like a very old man finding his way across a stream on a zigzag line of wet stones. There was no inspiration only a kind of stubborn determination and the hope that things would get better if I kept at it.? He was in pain as well. His injuries were horrific (as someone who has had a horrific road accident, I have some idea what he means) and it was hard just to sit up. Yet he finished this book to encourage others to write! What a guy. I have new respect for him and not a little gratitude. This
book isn?t just for wannabe writers, it is a good read for anyone. PS - not all his books are scary horror-fests. Worth checking out in the library - there are 35 of them so far.
As far as I'm concerned, there are four main issues that come with those grizzly years called 'teen'. One is either a mass of facial blemishes, or the deep, screaming fear of a mass of facial blemishes. The second is hair in all kinds of places. The third is a traditional and unjustified hatred of your parents and the fourth, and probably the least messy, is an addiction to trashy horror novels. Of course, sometimes the average teen continues to read trashy horror novels, missing the vital exit onto the route of better, more literary horror novels. Those who happen to see the signs and turn off just in time are likely to end up with a Stephen King novel in their sweaty, oxy spot cream scented palms. I read Carrie, King's first major novel, at a time when pimple-squishing was my most time-consuming hobby. Ironically, Carrie is about a teenager who struggles with the changes that occur during these funny few years, only Carrie is a girl and has telekinetic powers. But I'm not here to praise King's novels, despite the fact that I could go on about them for hours. Instead, I'd like to turn to his recent book, 'On Writing', which is a fascinating stroll through King's entire life as a writer, starting with the school magazines and wandering right up to his unfortunate accident in 1999, in which the master of the horror novel was critically injured when he was hit by a van. If you are a budding writer, this is not to be missed. There's nothing better than hearing all the tips from the horse's mouth - and King is one of the best horses for the job. In fact, he goes twice around the racecourse and still comes first. King, at times, is witty - making fun of his formative years and the idea of becoming a writer. For the remainder of the time, King is utterly hilarious. This is a very funny book, which exhibits a completely different voice to the one that hides inside each Stephen King
novel. You're not going to be scared when you read this book, neither are you going to have to spare several weeks to wade through a hefty book. Slim and with small chapters, King's book is a desk top necessity for all beginners to the land of fiction writing. It is also an absolute must for the King fan, along side the Stephen King Companion which was released some years ago. A gem of a book.
Stephen King has being one of my favourite writers since I was 14 yrs old and read 'It' for the first time. I have enjoyed most of his books and this one is no exception. It is interesting, easy to read and covers the author's ideas and thoughts about the art of writing. It also gives us an insight into the man and his early life, but even if you're only interested in writing and don't particularly like Stephen King's fiction it's still worth buying. The book is not huge, especially compared to most of his novels. It runs to 238 pages and is divided up into sections such as CV, Toolbox, On Writing, and at the end includes a list of books that SK enjoyed reading. It is full of useful writing tips, I only wish it were longer. "I'm convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing." - 'On Writing A Memoir' by Stephen King. Hardback edition 2000 ISBN 0-340-76996-3. "I would argue that the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of writing - the place where coherence begins and words stand a chance of becoming more than mere words." - 'On Writing A Memoir' by Stephen King. Hardback edition 2000 ISBN 0-340-76996-3. "As with all other aspects of fiction, the key to writing good dialogue is honesty." - 'On Writing A Memoir' by Stephen King. Hardback edition 2000 ISBN 0-340-76996-3. Are just a few of the interesting things Stephen King has to say on writing. And if you're at all interested in how Stephen King coped after his terrible accident in June 1999, when he was run over while out walking, there is a section dedicated to this called 'On Living: A Postscript'. King talks about what happened and how his wife Tabitha helped him get back to writing. "In the end it was Tabby who cast the deciding vote, as she so often has at crucial moments in my life." - 'On Writing A Memoir' by Ste
phen King. Hardback edition 2000 ISBN 0-340-76996-3.
I,m a big fan of Stephen King. Stephen King is the undisputed king of horror writing. If your a big fan of horror books Stephen King early books are a must. The way he tells a story will have you looking over your shoulder. The suspense is a enough to have you wondering what's going happen next. He makes you wonder could this happen in real life. But Stephen King last 10 books just don't appeal to me. It's like he just took words and put them in a book. No storyline to keep me wanting to read the rest of the book. It is like he is running a race to see how many books he can produce in a year.
I am Stephen King’s number one fan. That’s all there is to it, whether you like it or not, that’s the way it is. Now, I know that there are some of you out there who do not like him - at this point, I pause to glower meaningfully at certain chocolate addicts who will remain nameless – and I’m afraid all I can offer you is my deepest heartfelt sympathy. Maybe they’ll find a cure one day … until then, here’s my hand for you to squeeze … So anyway, I have to admit to feeling a little ashamed when this book “On Writing” came to my attention via another dooyoo opinion. What, you mean Stephen King has another book out, one that not only I haven’t heard about, but also one that someone else has had the time to read and then WRITE about? Shame on me, and shame on the person whose job it is to inform number one fans of this kind of development in their idol’s life! But I’m not one to give up easily, and after numerous subtle hints, and a few not-so-subtle ones, I had the pleasure of getting it for my birthday (which was on the 11th December for those of you who didn’t know or who pretended you didn’t). Still with me? Good. Now, I don’t really enjoy reading non-fiction books as a rule, but was, of course, more than willing to make an effort for my Stevie-Wevie. It was good. Not his best work, no, not even one of his best, but then you can’t really compare fiction with non-fiction anyway, can you? Say yes, and I’ll call you a liar. But I liked it because it was written in that familiar, laid-back style of his, almost as if it’s just the two of us having a private chat. One where he doesn’t let me get a word in edgeways, admittedly, but then he seems to answer any questions I might have just before I become aware of them myself. Spooky. Let’s start at the very beginning. The front cover describes this book as
8220;A Memoir”, but it can’t really be put neatly into the autobiography category. In fact it’s more of a book of tips for aspiring writers than an autobiography, so don’t be misled, you’ll only have yourself to blame now that I’ve told you. Okay, so now I’ve made that clear, you’ll be surprised, maybe even angry if you’re extremely intolerant, to hear me say that the first part of the book IS autobiographical. King takes us, humbly, almost apologetically, on a brief tour through his life, starting (maybe a little too obviously) in his childhood, his first attempts at writing and his collection of rejection letters, then on to the happy day he was told that the paperback rights to “Carrie” had gone for four hundred thousand dollars. A snip. Oh, and for those of you who like a bit of sensation, there’s a bit about his alcohol and cocaine addictions too. I hadn’t even known about this, so I have to assume they were trying to protect me from the truth. Shame, because I’m sure I could have done something, could have helped in some way. Still, he got over it in the end, you’ll be pleased to hear, and his writing doesn’t seemed to have suffered as a result. ;o) But I’d better keep going or it’ll start to sound like the autobio bit is the main bit and it cockadoodie isn’t. Sorry, hope I haven’t offended anyone with that bit of swearing there - it just slipped out (as the vicar said to the actress). The next part of the book is about the tools of the trade, such as vocabulary, grammar and paragraphs. Steve says you don’t necessarily have to use lots of impressive multi-syllabic words in order to put down on paper exactly what you want to say to the reader, but the larger vocabulary you have the easier this will be. Steve says grammar is very important but the rules can be bent a little if you’re sure you kn
ow what you’re doing. Steve says he doesn’t like adverbs, especially not in dialogue attribution. Steve says you should avoid using the passive tense if you can. Steve says paragraphs are cool (not his exact words). Steve says he loves me and is going to leave his wife so that we can be together. Hmm, maybe that last one was just a dream I had. So after all this tough talk from Steve, we get to the main part of the book, the bit “On Writing”. I’m not going to go into too much detail on what he talks about here, because a) I couldn’t do it justice, b) it would take too long, and c) Steve might end up poor if everyone reads this review instead of buying his book. Suffice it to say that there is some excellent advice here for writers on writing styles, good dialogue, to-the-point descriptions, research, back story, revising your first draft, the importance of reading and writing a lot, advice on getting published, and – maybe the most important of all – your motivation for writing. Steve says (oh shutup!) don’t do it because you think it might make you rich and/or famous, because it probably won’t. Write because you love writing … Oh, Steve says it all so much better than I do. Read the book and stop pestering me. Probably the most important piece of advice in here is the one about not going for country walks when mad people in blue Dodge vans are driving towards you with a rottweiler and a cooler of raw meat in the back seat. That’s certainly the one I’m going to make sure I follow. Steve had to learn this the hard way, and it very nearly cost him his life. He writes all about it in the last section, entitled “On Living”, and it’s an impressive read - you could be forgiven for forgetting it’s not one of his own works of fiction. I loved this book as much as I could ever love a non-fiction book. Not only for the (high) quality of the factua
l content (i.e. Steve’s background, his words of wisdom and his brush with death), but also – or even mainly – because it was written in that same familiar, unpretentious style that I love. <sigh> If you’re already a fan of Stephen King, then you will almost certainly like this book. If you don’t like Stephen King’s books but you enjoy writing yourself, then you still might like this book simply for the sound advice it contains. If you don’t know Stephen King at all, then don’t worry - I’m sure the nice people in white will be coming to collect you shortly. I am Stephen King’s number one fan. Annie Wilkes is dead, long live Sue Ellen.
Before even thinking of reading this book, you have to consider your thoughts on the author, Stephen King, very carefully. Remember, if you can, your school days. Unless you were a full time rebel or a full time student, there will be lessons in which you remember working hard, and those in which you remember throwing paper aeroplanes and giggling with your friends, yes? For me at least (and I suspect you’re the same), the difference in those two types of lessons always boiled down to how much respect I had for the teacher in question. The same applies here. Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is not an autobiography, it is, as the cover states, a ‘memoir’, but that’s only for the first half – the second half is a little bit like how you may remember you’re A level English lessons, those of you who took them and were lucky enough to have a down to earth tutor. The problem is, you have to be prepared to take advise, and that involves your attitude towards your teacher. If you’ve read every King novel there is and class the guy as your favourite writer of all time – great, we’re already half way there. If, however, you don’t like his style or his approach to writing, then perhaps you shouldn’t bother. Me? I just figure the man must be doing something right, and that currently I ain’t doing much better. I bought the book because I felt I had a lot to learn about writing, and that the worlds best-selling novelist should be able to help me, if your arrogant enough to think otherwise, then leave this well alone. Now, for the book it’s self. The first third of the book (although in reality it constitutes around a half) is indeed a ‘memoir’. King fondly talks us through early stories of his writing success (and failure), and allows us at the same time to learn about his childhood. The excuse given for this, by King himself, is that
the stories of his childhood allows us as readers to learn about ‘feelings and experiences that shaped his writing style’. Translated, that means talking about his trips to see horror movies and making newspapers with his elder brother, as well as some amusing stories about the trouble his writing landed him in at school. The only problem I have with this section of the book is Kings effort to justify it all, suggesting it will be in some way ‘useful’ for us as a reader wanting to learn how to write. That, of course, is rubbish. The only benefits reading this part of the book can offer will appear if your interested in King as a person (a ‘fan’ I believe is the correct term). This problem seems to stem from King’s own modesty. His reluctance to believe people may be interested in him and what he has to say, and his fear of sounding too smug or self-congratulating. As far as I could tell, it would be fair to think of this half of the book merely as a short but interesting autobiography, which centres it’s self loosely around King’s early writing experiences. Although I have said this section suffers a little from King’s modesty, in other ways it gains from it. Not once, through the entire course of the book, do you feel even a hint of superiority from the writer. As a person who, lets be fair, has sold more then a few novels, King could get away with being a tad pretentious. As it is, he never seems to mistake the popularity of his books for an keen interest in the details of his life – he keeps the memories short and to the point, never once dwelling or droning on. This will either please or disappoint you, depending on what your reading for. If I could divide you into three types of readers here for a moment, it will be the people wishing to hear about Stephen King that will enjoy this part, and those of you only wanting tips on writing that may find it boring. If like me
you’re a bit of both, your particularly lucky. The second third, or the start of the final half of this book, is very different. After around 80 pages of memoirs, King takes a sudden leap in style and you feel the true purpose of the book begins to show it’s self, (debatably making the pages before seem almost like an after-thought, included the make the book seem thicker, if you like to be cynical). Entitled ‘tool box’, King now starts giving us some real advise on how to write fiction his way. Just to keep to the theme, go back to those school days again will you? I’m thinking of the text-books. Remember how boring they were to read, the lame examples and the often patronising styles? Well, thankfully, King avoids that feeling altogether. For me, it was the biggest fear, that learning about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing as King describes it would be boring or, even worse, too ‘fun’. In reality though, I found the happy-medium satisfying. Let’s take a few steps back here. If your not reading this book to learn about how Stephen King would suggest we write, then you will hate every word of this. There isn’t even a general interest. Equally, if you loved the first section so much and expect more of the same autobiographical tales, your in the wrong place. It’s almost as if King has said ‘right, there’s your token light-reading out the way, now here’s what I set out to do…’, and then proceeds. But let us assume that you are like me, interested and keen to learn. The first think King deals with is, logically, the real basics. We’re talking the fundamental things you need to write – grammar, vocabulary and such. The way he puts it, and I personally found this to be an excellent method of putting his thoughts in order, is that such things are all ‘tools’ from the ‘tool-box’ one needs to write.
The obvious tools, such as vocab and grammar (or hammers and saws, I suppose), are at the top layer of your tool-box, while at the bottom layers are more complicated skills such as the use of adverbs and how to write realistic conversation, character building and description – all the less general things that can be applied particularly to writing fiction. Through-out the course of this section, King even approaches such subjects as the correct environments in which to write, and more practical advise on how to get publishers interesting in your work. I’m sure more things could have been included, but by the same token plenty more could have been left out and gone un-noticed. Over all though, it would be difficult to complain about the quantity of advise King offers us, it is neither too little or too much. Of course, no matter how many subjects he covers, what is important is the way in which King advises us. Like I said about the text-books – this is a bit how you might of wished they sounded years back in school. King writes with authority, but never once makes the obvious errors – over using technical terms as if to confuse the reader, straying off the point to bore, making too much of an effort to be ‘fun’ – all the things you could imagine spoiling the read. He talks to you as a person with a genuine desire to write good fiction, and has no problems with saying ‘this is right’ or, more frequently, ‘this is wrong’. The style he has used treads you with a pleasing degree of intelligence, not holding back from telling you exactly what you need to do to ever have a hope of success. The best bit? He explains why, too, and you can’t help believing him. King is writing here to teach us, but not in traditional sense of teaching those who ‘need’ the knowledge he has to offer, but those who actually want it. Of course, it may be different for you, but I found this sectio
n to be written with more then a hint of genius, in terms of the way he explains and justifies every tip he gives, without ever sounding boring. If you didn’t already know, one piece of information that put my mind at rest when buying was this – King is, by day, an English teacher, so his methods will be nothing if not well tried and tested. The (almost) final part of the book is a bit like the first in that it is a story concerning King himself, only shorter and centring only around one particular incident. Here, King tells the story of his recent brush with death – one day a year or so ago when he was knocked over and very nearly killed by a truck. This small section reads almost like one of his own novels might. He talks frankly about the incident, and the months of recovery, but more interestingly he talks about his would-be-killer Bryan Smith, describing him as ‘someone that could be a character in one of my one novels’. Kings bitterness towards this man is touched upon briefly, but makes a lasting impact, and leads you to consider if the man is deserved of the world-wide humiliation King subjects him to. But then, if everything happened as King describes, it could be said Bryan Smith deserves no less. This small section is of less usefulness then the first, and thankfully King doesn’t even try to suggest how it could help you write fiction. It reads almost like a man getting something off his chest, and makes an interesting few pages if your interested. Had the book been placed onto Dooyoo as a ‘tips on writing fiction’ opinion, I suspect many of us would question the relevance of the inclusion of this last part, despite how well it is written, and ‘SU’ the whole thing. As part of a book though, it is neither good or bad, simply an interesting addition that can either be read or skipped, with no consequence to how the book reads as a whole. The very last pages of the b
ook are made up of two short pieces, that, despite their length, are useful in their own way. The first is an actual re-write of a section of a book, showing us how it is King edits his work, and the second is a list of books King suggests we read, both for enjoyment and to improve our skills. These range for Harry Potter novels to ‘The Beach’ by Alex Garland, and the list is long and varied enough to make realistic suggestions for most readers. ‘If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write’ he says, and the very last pages act to effectively re-enforce that point. Both these sections go back to the original aim of the book – advising us how to write good fiction. While they are certainly interesting, what it is questionable, certainly with the re-write bit, their place within the novel it’s self. I enjoyed reading both of these two things, but came away from the book feeling as though it hadn’t really ended. I even checked that I hadn’t skipped a page of conclusion by mistake. In fact, the conclusion is at the end of the section about his accident, so don’t scan-read it in an effort to reach the end like I did. Over all, ‘On Writing’ can only be judged according the expectations and attitudes of each particular reader. It isn’t a straight-forward piece of fiction, nor is it a straight-forward advisory book, it is both. A general interest in Stephen King is essential – without that, nothing in this book will interest or help you, but what is also important is a desire to write stories yourself, and a willingness to learn how to do so. ‘On Writing’ is short enough without half of the book boring you, either his autobiographical section or the tips on writing. I recommend this book to people who are in a similar boat as me – a King fan with an interest in writing myself. As an insig
ht into the life of Stephen King, this book serves in half measures. As purely a book with which to learn how to write, it is arguably flawless, although not long enough or detailed enough to justify your purchase. You have to decide if you match the reader criteria, and if you do, congratulations – your in for a good read. King balances entertainment and information like a master, and leaves you wishing he had been your English teacher back in high-school. You won’t read on the each of your seat, nor will you come away afraid, but for once that is not Stephens Kings aim. The book is short, but sweet, and will do nothing if not prove the intelligence and ability of the writer himself. ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King is available in pretty much every bookshop in the country, or at least everyone I have entered, and is currently only available in hard-back (with a paper-back version planned for early next year), published by Hodder & Stoughton.
Billed as a 'masterclass on the art of writing', Stephen King's latest offering - called, appropriately enough "On Writing", promises to "empower anyone who reads it". So, does it live up to the hype? The book starts with a series of anecdotal tales from King's childhood - a time of his life which he admits is rather hazy in his memory. We learn about his first attempts at writing when confined to bed with a childhood illness. He tells of the first money he made from writing ( a quarter from his mother) and, as he progresses through childhood to his teenage years, the ever growing pile of rejection slips he received. The tale continues through the early years of his marriage and the writing of his first successful book 'Carrie'. It progresses through his problems with alcoholism to the last chapter, which is a detailed account of the car accident in June 1999 which so nearly cost him his life. Interspersed with the autobiographical details are tips on writing, revising the written work and getting published. The content is varied - from developing vocabulary, to how to ensure that your work is grammatically correct, to how to describe the mechanics of sex and defecation whilst avoiding profanity. Scattered throughout are quotes and short passages from other books which King admires. King tells his readers that one of the best ways to write is to read extensively - to gain an appreciation of exactly what does and doesn't work. He provides a list of books at the end of "On Writing" which he feels are entertaining and worthwhile. This book is unmistakenly 'Stephen King'. It's written in his usual detailed, evocative style and, as such, should be of interest to King fans. Yet it is fair to say that one would need to be a true King fan to enjoy this book. The biographical details are riveting, particularly as they come ' straight from the hors
es mouth'. As usual, King makes even the most minor events - such as a description of his Uncle Oren's toolbox - sound relevant and entertaining. The masterclass on writing is interesting too. Yet, at the same time, the reader feels as though he/she is being moulded towards writing in the distinctive Stephen King 'style'.Perhaps in view of King's status as a multi-millionaire and one of the best - if not the best - selling authors of all time, this is no bad thing. But somehow,the advice given comes over as presumptuous and - dare I say it - slightly arrogant. There is plenty to enjoy about this book. It is fascinating to know what goes on in the mind of such a successful writer. To learn how he actually goes about his profession and what inspires him. The book is even extremely humourous in places - although personally I would have liked the humour to be slightly more self depreciating than it is. Somehow, the book falls between two stools. There is not enough autobiographical content to make it a good autobiography, but too much to make it of use to an aspiring writer. The title? Well, at the end of the book is a short story writing competition. The prize for the best short story (maximum 3000 words) will be a meeting with the author himself,plus publication of the winning entry in the paperback edition of 'On Writing' to be published in summer 2001. Best get writing, fellow King-clones - the closing date for entries is December 31st.
A must for King-fans, this book provides insights to his early influences and efforts, and outlines a basic guide to writing, King-style.