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On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft [Paperback]

Stephen King
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (575 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 6 2010
“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.

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Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. You're right there with the young author as he's tormented by poison ivy, gas-passing babysitters, uptight schoolmarms, and a laundry job nastier than Jack London's. It's a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. This was a child who dug Yvette Vickers from Attack of the Giant Leeches, not Sandra Dee. "I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash." But massive reading on all literary levels was a craving just as crucial, and soon King was the published author of "I Was a Teen-Age Graverobber." As a young adult raising a family in a trailer, King started a story inspired by his stint as a janitor cleaning a high-school girls locker room. He crumpled it up, but his writer wife retrieved it from the trash, and using her advice about the girl milieu and his own memories of two reviled teenage classmates who died young, he came up with Carrie. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife's intervention, which he describes). "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing."

King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft's arcane vocabulary, Hemingway's leanness, Grisham's authenticity, Richard Dooling's artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman's sentence fragments. He explains why Hart's War is a great story marred by a tin ear for dialogue, and how Elmore Leonard's Be Cool could be the antidote.

King isn't just a writer, he's a true teacher. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

As his diehard fans know, King is a member of a writers-only rock 'n' roll band (Amy Tan is also a member), and this recording starts off with a sampling of their music. It may sound unsettling to some, but King quickly puts listeners at ease with his confident, candid and breezy tone. Here, King tells the story of his childhood and early influences, describes his development as a writer, offers extensive advice on technique (read: write tight and no bullshit) and finally recounts his well-known experience of being hit by a drunk driver while walking on a country road in 1999 and the role that his work has played in his rehabilitation. While some of his guidance is not exactly revolutionary (he recommends The Elements of Style as a must-have reference), other revelations that vindicate authors of popular fiction, like himself, as writers, such as his preference for stressing character and situation over plot, are engrossing. He also offers plenty of commonsense advice on how to organize a workspace and structure one's day. While King's comical childhood anecdotes and sober reflections on his accident may be appreciated while driving to work or burning calories on a treadmill, the book's main exercise does not work as well in the audio format. King's strongest recommendation, after all, is that writers must be readers, and despite his adept performance, aspiring authors might find that they would absorb more by picking up the book. Based on the Scribner hardcover (Forecasts, July 31, 2000).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading April 19 2011
By IDGS
Format:Mass Market Paperback
To start, I'm an author. I need to preface this review with that fact, as I don't know how engaging this may have been, had I not had such an investment in the topic myself.

That being said, anyone with absolutely any interest in the craft of writing can surely benefit from the wisdom between these pages. Much less a 'how to write' book and so much more, as it says, 'a memoir of the craft,' King comes off as nuturing rather than preachy, and entertaining rather than dry.

His advice is sound. Think of the last book you read that left you feeling a little less than satisfied. After reading On Writing, I promise you can pick out exactly what made that book lackluster, as King is a master of analyzing not only the faults of others, but his own as well.

A window into King's otherwise fairly unobserved writing life, I highly reccomend this to any writers, King fans, or anyone just looking for a good non-fiction read.

Overall, 5/5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
It was a pleasure to read this book. It gave me some inspiration and more will to write. If this book was prose, I'd definately give it full 5 stars, but the fact is that this book doens't teach you almost anything about writing. Yes, it tells you to write each and every day, preferably at the same time and at least some specified amount of words, but who wouldn't figure it all out himself? Besides, the book tells in fact mostly about Stephen King himself; his past and stuff like that. What does it have to do with writing? If you're a fan of King and interested in writing, this book is for you. Otherwise, it's not worth the money. There are better books out there, just go and find them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Geat book, but no need to buy this new one. Feb. 2 2012
Format:Paperback
There's no point in explaining how terrific this book is. Other reviews have already covered it. Still... don't waste extra money on the newest edition. Nothing of consequence has been added. Thus 4 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to On Writing. Now Start Writing. Sept. 6 2012
By Scoopriches TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The second greatest book I have ever read on the greatness of writing is actually the more practical of the two. While Zen in the Art of Writing provides the motivational jumpstart you require to get the creative juices flowing, this volume, also a collection of previously published essays, is the more nitty gritty one.

For On Writing by Stephen King paints a vivid picture of the how's and why's of his creative process. And when he explores all the facets he has gone through, you will walk away with a very profound feeling inside.

In the beginning, King gives you his autobiography, a cleansing of his soul, so we can understand the man he was, the man he became, and the man he is now. The earliest childhood recollections do possess a certain Stand By Me vibe, with some memorable traumas evoking sympathy for the man who scares us so much. After all these decades, it always felt like nothing could terrorize the horror master. But now we learn different.

On Writing churns through the rest of King's life. His first foray into alcohol, starting when he was a teen, with brutal effects. The massive love and admiration for his wife Tabitha, right from the moment he locked eyes on her. His first rocky years of adulthood and marriage and having children and low wage soul-sapping menial jobs. Poverty and misery was his existence. Pounding out story after story was his future.

At this point, the tangential connection of two very disparate ideas collide in Stephen King's mind. This spark of a random comment combined with an obscure article he remembered brings forth a few typed pages, which he then promptly tossed into the trash. Tabitha fished them out. Told him to finish it. To get it out of his system.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I Wanna Be a Writer June 29 2014
By Bambi
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been a closet writer for years. I have only read a few chapters, but I am inspired by the simplicity with which Stephen King writes about how he got his start as a writer. Basically experience life and write about it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On Writing is On the Money May 20 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Part autobiography and part writing guide, On Writing is one of those books you keep seeing from the corner of your eye for some time before you realize everything you read seems to be leading you to it so you may as well give it a go. I haven't read any of Mr. King's works simply because I'm not one of those brave souls who enjoy jumping at shadows for weeks after the fact. And since his genre is very much a part of him I went into this book doubting I would enjoy it. I'm pleased to say I was wrong; it's one of the best books now on my bookshelf.

The first half gives a quick but interesting look at his life up to the publication of his first novel, Carrie, and a summary of his life thereafter, which leads into the second half of the book: all the things he's learned in his career that might help writers looking to get their own Carrie's off the ground.

I've read a great deal of writing guides before (too many) and I was thrilled that On Writing was entirely different from all those others. While I was expecting the usual bits on dialogue, story arcs, and the like, I got chapters on grammar, how to edit, how to pace yourself but stay focused and keep up until it's done. But my favorite and most enlightening chapter by far was the one on agents. I've never read a guide that explained agents, and the only one that mentioned them just said that I needed to get one, then continued the chapter as though one had appeared in the room upon reading those words. On Writing explains where to find agents, how to pick the right ones, how to introduce yourself, what they're looking for, and how to <i>get </i>what they're looking for. Basically it answered every question I've had since reading that one guide back in the 90s.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
perfect
Published 13 days ago by Eric Sweet
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books for writers
I don't tend to read books about writing: I'd rather write. But I had heard such good things about this book that I really needed to see it for myself. And it was a fantastic read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by 8thCyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Writing Book
I was asked to read this book for a class and I'm really glad that I did. Of course Stephen King is an excellent writer, great writing tips and real honestly about his life... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in...
The master storyteller packs a punch in this work of non-fiction; part autobiography, part resource, On Writing is both captivating and loaded with useful information for writers... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Nick F
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for writers!
Great book! The first half comes across as a bio of The Master himself. The second half is what serious writers need to follow. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Derek Finnik
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what you expect
King is FANTASTIC! It's a non-fiction book that keeps you reading. Who else could accomplish this like King? No one, that's who.
Published 5 months ago by Jason Mercier
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Cujos
Back in the days when we ate dinosaurs for dinner, I read Stephen King paperbacks. Then the digital age dawned. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kathy Steinemann
5.0 out of 5 stars On Writing: Anniversary Ed.
This book is filled with wit and humour. It is inspiring and as an aspiring writer, game changing. Simple and straightforward, Stephen King's memoir-instruction gives a... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Boris the Blade
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting real about writing
Stephen King's book provides advice and guidance on writing that is inspiring and helpful while being honest about the limited prospects for fame and fortune. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Glen
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book
This is a must read for any writer. By avoiding the subject at first, it actually teaches the principles of writing but only if you're paying attention. Thank you Mr. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mathieu Lariviere
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