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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 (571 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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading April 19 2011
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Geat book, but no need to buy this new one. Feb. 2 2012
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Writing Book Feb. 7 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 struggles and setbacks. The point is, he didn't get published right away but his love for writing kept him motivated and he 'worked hard' at his craft. I think this book is a great inspiration for writers of all levels of experience.
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By Nick F
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 of all levels. This is a must-read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for writers! Feb. 1 2014
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book! The first half comes across as a bio of The Master himself. The second half is what serious writers need to follow. There are no rules to writing, but this comes as close to being them. Forget every other book about writing (except for Strunk & White's as indicated by Stephen), as this is the only book needed.

I would LOVE to meet Stephen King and spend a day with him. If I were to ask him for writing advice, I would expect him to ask "Did you read On 'Writing'??" It's all you need (and some practice, patience, and perseverance).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what you expect Jan. 31 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Cujos Jan. 28 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Back in the days when we ate dinosaurs for dinner, I read Stephen King paperbacks. Then the digital age dawned. I decided to stock my Kindle with some of the King novels I had enjoyed while I watched Noah build the ark. Ouch. The e-book prices were higher than brand new paperbacks. No way I intended to line the pockets of greedy publishers.

So I waited. Maybe the publisher would grow a brain and lower the price of "On Writing". I waited. For months. Not gonna happen.

I relented. I bought. I read.

I would have preferred a little more information about writing and a little less memoir. However, Stephen King's advice is solid. The first portion of the book felt a bit disjointed to me--like a dream sequence that rambles forward and back. This was a difficult write for Mr. King. He dared to bare his soul and his weaknesses to readers. That must have scared him more than any nightmare storylines he could ever have imagined.

I give it four Cujos . . . er . . . kudos--and wish him a total recovery from the injuries he received when run down by a careless driver.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On Writing: Anniversary Ed. Dec 8 2013
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 perspective only a master can provide. Highly recommend to all.
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Most recent customer reviews
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 6 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 7 months ago by Mathieu Lariviere
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful for beginners
I found this book to be engaging and informative. I am not a reader of Stephen King's books as I don't like being frightened when I read for some odd reason. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mary
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!
Is a must read for any aspiring author. Informative, and entertaining! I loved reading every word of this spectacular book!
Published 8 months ago by Christy Erasmus
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on the craft of writing that I've read
King brings his personal writing journey and his expertise in the craft together to create clear and insightful advice on the craft of writing. Read more
Published 9 months ago by John R. Paterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
Practical and entertaining. Makes me want to read more King. Makes me want to get back to my computer. Keep writing.
Published 11 months ago by Zander
5.0 out of 5 stars On Writing: An Inspiration.
I'm a writer, struggling to improve my craft. Stephen King' On Writing, part biography, part guide to writing well, encouraged, instructed and inspired me. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Virginia
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