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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Paperback – 13 November 2012
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Absolutely fascinating . . . basic instructions . . . sensible advice ― The Sunday Times
The childhood memoir is a triumphant display of wit, story-telling and guts. His advice to writers is hard-nosed, practical and level-headed in the classic journalistic Orwell-Hemingway tradition ― Evening Standard
This is the written equivalent of Delia Smith's How To Cook. And, like British home cooking, the world of popular fiction will be better off for it ― The Times
Stephen King is a genius . . . In this book he tells us what first made him a horror writer . . . I find King fascinating because he writes in the least florid way possible, yet his very direct approach to getting his awesome imagination onto a blank page works. ― Jeremy Vine in We Love This Book
- Publisher : Hodder Paperbacks; 1st edition (13 November 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1444723251
- ISBN-13 : 978-1444723250
- Dimensions : 13.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I tell myself I don't have enough time. Sure, I'm the greatest living novelist to never write a novel, if only I could get time to write the damn thing. Which is why I reached for Stephen King's On Writing. One of the most successful writers in history must know something about his craft, right?
Split into two parts, On Writing first tells the story of what made Stephen King a writer. At times hilarious and moving, but always honest, the first section had me laughing out loud (when his older brother tricks him into wiping his ass with Poison Ivy), marveling at his work ethic ("By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it"), and amazed at his success.
I also liked his writing.
Now. Here's a strange thing: he's one of the most successful authors of all time, and I hadn't read a single one of Stephen King's books. I pride myself on the eclectic nature of the books I read, and yet I've not so much as flipped to the back cover of the Shining, or even grazed the spine of Carrie. Horror isn't a genre I'd pick up without some serious prompting, so maybe I needed a book like this to show me all the great stuff I was missing out on (straight afterwards I went out and bought a collection of his short stories, so it likely won't be a problem for long). But King's success is no accident - this cat can write.
The second section is Uncle Stevie's how-to-guide for writers - a kind of framework for thinking about how you get the words down on the page, what words they should be ("The road to hell is paved with adverbs"), and getting rid of the words that don't belong ("To write is human, to edit is divine").
It's this framework that separates On Writing from the rest of the pack; it helps you understand how the small stuff fits in to the big stuff - it reminds you how narrative, dialogue, character, sentence, and paragraph work together to create the whole story, without getting bogged down in the details for too long. I've not read anything else that paints the whole picture in a way that On Writing does, nor anything that fills you with the confidence to sit down in front of a blank page.
Inspirational is what it is.
Time to boot up the laptop and pop the kettle on again I think...
Apart from an autobiography, I didn't know what to expect, perhaps a few tips on writing. But no, he gives us more. He gives us the tools, and practical advice as to how we should write. He gives rules to follow and things to avoid. He has a "Do as I say, not do as I do" policy in regards to adverbs for example.
As a writer myself, this book makes you want to re-evaluate your writing and sharpen your own tools. Sure, you cannot write like your favourite authors, but you can develop your own style and improve yourself. He tells it like a university lecturer and as a friend. This is the tone that inspires you to work harder. He believes in you.
The autobiography itself tells us about his childhood, the first book he wrote, his inspirations, how his wife contributes to his works, the publication of his first novel, to how he survived a horrible accident. He may not look it, but Stephen King is a fighter, he carried on writing. It kept him going. This is an uplifting book.
Who can possibly give the best advice on writing other than the best storyteller?
Essential for Writers, a Must-have for King fans.
It took me a while to get into this book, and I think that’s because I was desperate to get to the writing advice bit. I was often tempted to just skip forward, but I persevered with the initial chapters (they’re not boring by any means, I just wanted the writing advice!)
The first part of the book is a kind of memoir, as King recounts different events in his life that relate to his writing style and the genre he writes in too. It’s well written and enjoyable throughout, but I particularly like the later stages. I think everyone loves a good struggle-to-success story, and King’s is a great one. You can’t help but feel for him as he works hard to support his family and still manages to fit his writing in on the side. Just reading it made me want to write more and made me realise that excuses just don’t cut it – we’re all tired and busy, but if you really want to do something then you just get on and do it.
And then we get to the part where he sells Carrie and I actually had tears in my eyes. When he’s told the amount of money he’s getting for it, and looks around and the tiny, terrible houses he’s living in, and knows his life is going to change – I think it’s every writer’s dream. I adore success stories like this.
The actual writing advice is all very solid. Some of it is worded in a brilliant way that might cause a little revelation in you, but other bits are pretty standard advice that you’ll hear from all kinds of writers and editors. As always, there’s no magic formula for becoming a great writer or writing an amazing story – and anyone who tells you otherwise is not to be trusted – but there are certain skills you can develop and hone. I think the charm here is King’s bluntness and simple way of putting things – there’s no fluff here, no false hope, just a lot of great advice.
I’d definitely recommend this book, for any King fans who want to know more about him and how he writes his books, and for aspiring writer’s who want some straightforward advice. It doesn’t promise to make you a better writer, but with this advice, it can’t make you any worse.
As the title suggests, this is a book written for nervous authors looking for success by a frighteningly successful author. This book was on my wish list for a long time before I finally got down to reading it, and now I am wondering why I waited so long.
Naturally, I started off on the book with a great deal of anticipation. The first half of the book is a kind of brief autobiography of Stephen King, going back to his childhood and stressing the factors that shaped him as an author and his own efforts at achieving a name for himself. He started young, something I wish I had done. For a fellow author (light years behind King on the path to success) this part makes for fascinating reading, even if it does not directly address the title and intention of the book. . It does talk about an author’s struggles and failures and successes, and makes you want to emulate him.
Now to the “on writing”, second part of the book. I have this to say straight away: On Writing did not teach me much new in terms of new lessons on writing for authors. I really have not kept count of the number of books and blog posts and articles on writing I have read. I had already—and in most cases repeatedly—come across almost all of the finer points of writing King talks about.
What sets King above most others is how he presents things—his style of writing. That is uniquely Stephen King. That is uniquely enjoyable, and because it was enjoyable, I found myself rapt in what King had to say, and absorbing everything he said better. He covers the gamut of writers and writing, from Hemingway to Grisham, and he does not leave much unsaid.
Putting it in another way, King gets the point across better than most others, and that is what makes this book worth the cost and the read. At least for writers.
There are a few nuggets of common sense about writing thrown in, which probably confirm what you already suspected about becoming a writer anyway.
Spoiler alert: if you want to be a successful writer, begin writing when you're eight years old, be totally obsessed with writing every day, then study creative writing at university, don't be concerned about making money, be prepared to get hundreds of rejection slips, ... oh, and be incredibly lucky with maybe your first book... which got made into a film (Carrie) because you happened to be around at the right time. Like all creatives who made it big, the man paid his dues while he learned his trade.
The anecdotes were amusing, and the poor guy got badly injured (nearly killed) 20 years ago by an idiot redneck driver while out for a walk. Nobody deserves that. So... good luck to Stephen King. Apart from the bad accident, he's had quite a bit of luck in his life, which is great.
So... pay the money, read the book, and at least you can say you were given tips by one of the most successful writers of our times.