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Yeah yeah, the old “van-coming-righ t-at-ya” joke, haha, very funny
On Writing - Stephen King
Member Name: Sue Ellen
On Writing - Stephen King
Date: 03/01/01, updated on 12/04/01 (168 review reads)
Advantages: It’s by Stephen King so it’s cockadoodie perfect.
Disadvantages: I said, it’s by Stephen King so it’s cockadoodie perfect.
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.
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