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On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Stephen King
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (578 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2000

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

Here is Stephen King's master class on his craft.

On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, offer a fresh and often funny perspective on the formation of a writer.

King then turns to the tools of his trade, examining crucial aspects of the wriiter's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

King was in the middle of writing this book when he was nearly killed in a widely reported accident. On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how his need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

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From Amazon

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
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow Oct. 18 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I don't read Stephen King's books - sorry, but horror just isn't my cup of tea. Yet when I read his articles on other things, I never fail to be impressed by his clear and discerning vision.
In short, don't let King's usual subject matter keep you from this amazing read. This is writing from the inside, a very honest and personal look. It doesn't really matter if you have a writing career, if you want one, or if you just want to understand what makes a writer tick. You'll find yourself stopping every few pages at a new discovery. It'll be something you've already felt, but never mentioned to anyone. You'll laugh in recognition, before eagerly pressing on.
This is a book you'll want to read again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Autobiography, Poor Book on the Craft Aug. 29 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
I was very excited to get this book and learn the techniques and wisdoms of the craft from such an experienced master. I laughed and cried at his personal life stories. Few books have made be do that. But a master-class on writing this book is not, as it is ill defined in the description on the back cover. His advise to the writer was limited to write every day, don't create an outline, and read, read, read. There were some editing examples included, but not enough to understand the editing techniques a writer of fiction must have to be successful. Described as part autobiography and part master-class on writing, the fact is, 90% is autobiography, 2% useful master-class, and 8% other.
As in autobiography, I'd give it 10 stars!!! As a book on writing, sadly, only one star. There are much better and more detail manuscripts out there that serve this purpose much, much better. The marketing strategy is misleading and does little service to such a profound, prolific, and important writer of modern fiction. I still love King, and I loved reading about his life story -- the price of the book is well worth that! But if you are an aspiring writer, read it to understand the man, not to learn about writing.
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7 of 8 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
On Writing by Stephen King is an interesting autobiography that showed how the famous author got started writing. I feel like I know so much more about Stephen King and that writing takes a lot of practice to get it right. This book certainly gave me the motivation I needed to get started and practice writing.

It was a passion from his childhood, which was when he started writing stories. Like all beginning writers, he first copied his ideas from works he enjoyed, then later on formed his own stories.

The writing section in this book was extremely helpful as well, giving bits of advice that other writing books may not include.

Some advice includes:

- Writing a lot and reading a lot are a must for writers.
- Find a place that you will be able to concentrate on your writing, preferably a place with few distractions.
- Try to get the same number of pages or words competed per day and you may need a set time. Start off with a fewer number of pages so you do not become discouraged.
- Don't open your room door until you have completed your work.
- Don't tell people what you are working on and try to complete the novel as soon as possible or work on it daily so it stays fresh in your mind.
- Try to read everywhere you can, for example long line ups, the park, the waiting room.
- Novels consist of three parts: narration (situation comes before the characters prior to narrating), description, and dialogue. Plots are not important since life is plotless, and because spontaneity cannot be created with the use of plots.
- Whole novels can start from what if questions.
- Don't over-describe or under-describe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful, Insightful and Well-Written Jan. 31 2010
Stephen King's memoir/guide to writing is absolutely inspiring. I had never read anything by Stephen King before, but a professor recommended this book for aspiring writers. The first half of the book is a mini autobiography, but with its centre around how King came to be a published author. He talks about his beginnings as an impovrished(ish) teacher/writer to becoming world-class and highly acclaimed. My favourite parts were when he talked about his "muse" and how you had to go to the muse and do all the legwork, but it was worth it because "he has the magic." At times funny, at times heartbreaking, and always informative, this is a great read for anyone wishing to know the basics of the craft.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars funny, practical
Honest, incisive, funny, practical. This isn't my first reading of this book, and it won't be my last. "On Writing" inspires me, instructs my writing, gives me courage. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Katie Welch
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
One of the most amazing books on writing I have ever read...
Published 1 month ago by manchita99
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for anyone interested in the writing process
Read it when it was new and read it again now and I would still recommend it to anyone with even a mild interest in writing or the writing process or simply interested in the man... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Chris Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
Published 3 months ago by Eric Sweet
5.0 out of 5 stars I Wanna Be a Writer
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. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Bambi
5.0 out of 5 stars On Writing is On the Money
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... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jas Robinson
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 5 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago by Derek Finnik
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