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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Hardcover – Oct 3 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 607 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Oct 3 2000
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1st Edition edition (Oct. 3 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684853523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684853529
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.6 x 2.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 607 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #123,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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

From Publishers Weekly

"No one ever asks [popular novelists] about the language," Amy Tan once opined to King. Here's the uber-popular novelist's response to that unasked question a three-part book whose parts don't hang together much better than those of the Frankenstein monster, but which, like the monster, exerts a potent fascination and embodies important lessons and truths. The book divides into memoir, writing class, memoir. Many readers will turn immediately to the final part, which deals with King's accident last year and its aftermath. This material is tightly controlled, as good and as true as anything King has written, an astonishing blend of anger, awe and black humor. Of Bryan Smith (who drove the van that crushed King) watching the horribly wounded writer, King writes, "Like his face, his voice is cheery, only mildly interested. He could be watching all this on TV...." King's fight for life, and then for the writing life, rivets attention and inflames admiration as does the love he expresses throughout for his wife, novelist Tabitha. The earlier section of memoir, which covers in episodic fashion the formation of King the Writer, is equally absorbing. Of particular note are a youthful encounter with a babysitter that armchair psychologists will seize upon to explain King's penchant for horror, and King's experiences as a sports reporter for the Lisbon, Maine, Weekly Express, where he learned and here passes on critical advice about writing tight. King's writing class 101, which occupies the chewy center of the book, provides valuable advice to novice scribesDalthough other than King's voice, idiosyncratic and flush with authority, much of what's here can be found in scores of other writing manuals. What's notable is what isn't here: King's express aim is to avoid "bullshit," and he manages to pare what the aspiring writer needs to know from idea to execution to sale to a few simple considerations and rules. For illustration, he draws upon his own work and that of others to show what's good prose and what's not, naming names (good dialogue: Elmore Leonard; bad dialogue: John Katzenbach). He offers some exercises as well. The real importance of this congenial, ramshackle book, however, lies neither in its autobiography nor in its pedagogy, but in its triumphant vindication of the popular writer, including the genre author, as a writer. King refuses to draw, and makes a strong case for the abolition of, the usual critical lines between Carver and Chandler, Greene and Grisham, DeLillo and Dickens. Given the intelligence and common sense of his approach, perhaps his books' many readers will join him in that refusal. 500,000 first printing. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have such an association of Stephen King with my recently passed father. Growing up, Stephen King was one of the main lords of my dads man library and lucky for me he's such a prolific author. I had plenty of mileage for Christmas presents out of the latest Stephen King novel. And being one of those girls who reads everything they get their hands on, I of course stole my dads books and embarked into the spooky and wonderful world of Stephen King.

I've always wanted to be a writer, but completely lacked confidence. Now I'm trying in earnest and this book not only gave me some real applicable wisdom, but so much encouragement and motivation. I can't help but think my dad is the one that led me to here. This is one of those books that I'll always remember. One that really makes a change in you.

Thank you Stephen King. For your honesty and advice and the connection with my dad nearly four years after his passing. Big hugs.
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Format: Hardcover
As a memoir, it was a good read to see into King's life. There wasn't as much on the craft as I would've liked, but his life as the writer and aspiring author, as well as his life as the prolific writer that he is, was interesting to read. The memories shared were poignant and his instance on reading and writing daily are good points. While I didn't learn much about the craft as I was hoping to do, I believe that was I was let down with in terms of advice may have been because I am already familiar with it from other writers or the internet; had I read this book at the time of its publication, it would have been different.

The decision to make it a memoir and not a writing manual was good. Anyone can write a book and tell you what works for them (and will probably result in what might not work for you) and explain the mechanics any English class can teach you, but King only explains what his method is and encourages a lifestyle more than a mimicry of his process and that is what someone should get out of reading this book.
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Format: Paperback
I had this book for a lot of years before I actually read it. I don't read books telling me how to write but found this one on my book shelf, the Stephen King shelves, and wanted to see what the Master had to say about writing. Turned out I couldn't put it down! He shows just how generous a person he is by sharing himself and his journey to become, in my opinion, one of the greatest writers ever. He shows how hard it is to make it in this world and how he did it, although it's a different world these days. Even he turned to Twitter in the end! It isn't overly instructive about the rights and wrongs and the rules of writing - I liked that because it is clearly his opinion. As a rebel I refuse to read books on writing because they are generally written by people who, well don't have as many books of their own to share. What he did for me was to reinforce that the way I write books is just as valid a method as anyone else who plans, and prepares, and follows all the rules. He helped me to believe in myself and to be able to say "I am a writer, author of......" which up till that point I couldn't say. Thank you for that Stephen King. And he shared the story of his dreadful accident, a time when we fans who have all his books (real hard back not kindle!) thought he would never write again. A long hard slog to get back. Little knowing that I would find this useful this past year after a brain tumour operation when I couldn't write or type, but managed to publish two books during the long hard slog back to health. What an inspiration you are Sir, thank you. Pat McDonald British Crime Author
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