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160 of 167 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous
ON WRITING is better than I thought it would be. It's marvelous. I finished it in less than two days.

In the First Forward, Stephen King observes that popular novelists are never "asked about the language" when queried by admiring fans. Thus, he states:

"What follows is an attempt to put down , briefly and simply, how I came to the craft (of telling...
Published on 3 Mar 2006 by Joseph Haschka

versus
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting autobiography mixed with basic writing advice
"On Writing" Stephen King calls it, but it should read "King's Autobiography Linked to Strunk and White's Rules of Writing." He writes of his early life, an odd herky-jerky experience, he calls it. It is revealing and entertaining, and his hungry fans should adore it. He includes his recent experiences with a car accident that could have proven...
Published on 9 Sep 2000


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160 of 167 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous, 3 Mar 2006
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
ON WRITING is better than I thought it would be. It's marvelous. I finished it in less than two days.

In the First Forward, Stephen King observes that popular novelists are never "asked about the language" when queried by admiring fans. Thus, he states:

"What follows is an attempt to put down , briefly and simply, how I came to the craft (of telling stories on paper), what I know about it now, and how it's done. It's about the day job; it's about the language."

In the first hundred or so pages, King shares his experiences growing up in Maine and Connecticut, his marriage, his struggles as a novice writer, and his drug and alcohol problems. King intends this section not as an autobiography, but as a curriculum vitae. It ends with the assignment of the paperback rights to CARRIE, his first novel.

In the next 150 pages, the author describes how he performs his craft. He explains the "tools" of writing (vocabulary and grammar), the creative environment (the room, the door, the determination to close the door, and the music - Hard Rock in King's case), style and formatting (paragraphing, narration, description, and dialogue), and the final stretch to a finished piece (drafts, editing, and proofreading by a trusted friend - wife/author Tabitha in King's case).

The final few pages, in a way, are the most interesting. It's Stephen's account of the road accident in 1999 that inflicted multiple fractures to his ribs and lower body, and the effect the mishap had on his writing. Ironically enough, he'd half completed this book at the time of the incident, and he had to struggle to come back and finish.

Though King was once a high school English teacher, ON WRITING is in no way pedantic, but chatty and informal. It's a book straight from the author's heart, and it shows.

"Don't wait for the muse ... This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic."

This last excerpt illustrates why I like this book so much. It's applicable to any sort of writing whether it be reviews for Amazon or technical writing on-the-job, both of which I do in tremendous amounts.

The author's first rule for good writing is that the writer must read a lot. Well, I do that - constantly. Perhaps I can improve my own poor scribbling. In this overview of the volume, I've followed his advice; I've kept the paragraphs short and avoided use of passive sentence construction. That's something, at least.
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterclass in the writing life, 30 Jun 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Writing (Hardcover)
This is two books in one, yet it isn't. The autobiographical section is not so much a potted history of King's life as a description of his writing apprenticeship - the experiences and emotions, from the stimulants of his childhood imagination to the abuse of stimulants, from the experience of rejection to the experience of survival after being hit by a van.
Writing, King makes clear, isn't simply the ability to do joined up words or type at a keyboard. Writing is about pain and experience, knowledge and emotion, understanding and questioning. Writing is about life ... and if you want to be a good writer, then you must live to write. In the process you may have to fight to survive alcohol and drugs and poverty and loneliness ... and the dangers round that next bend. Even when you've sold your first story, you're never comfortable, never sure it wasn't a fluke and that the next one won't be hurled back in your face.
It's a fascinating insight into King's psyche, one which prepares you for the guidance he offers writers. He puts together a toolkit of advice to motivate and encourage you to write. Much of the toolkit, of course, can be described as words and sweat. If you write, language is your medium. If you want to write well, you have to work at it.
There's a strong motivational element to King's book. He pulls no punches. Not everyone can be a great writer. Everyone might have a novel in them, but not many people have a novel anyone else would want to read. Be realistic about your talent. Appreciate you can improve, can refine your skills and techniques. But, it'll take work, lots of hard work, and you may still never write a masterpiece.
But writing is a process of self-belief and self-fulfilment and self-discovery. It is, only incidentally, a commercial activity. If you can make a living from it, so much the better. Writing is as much an addiction as drugs or alcohol. It is, however, a life enhancing and life asserting addiction.
I doubt if King needs the money, but you should buy this book if you have any love of or interest in writing - whether you harbour the notion of writing that masterpiece, of simply seeing a piece in print, or whether you write a private journal and enjoy the texture of passion and tactile delight of putting words on paper. For the writer in you, this book is a must read. It's life-affirming, and so well paced, it reads like a thriller. You'll keep turning the pages and won't be able to put the light out.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good kick start, 13 Aug 2001
By 
Theo (Oakham, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Writing (Hardcover)
I never thought I would sit chuckling over a Stephen King book, but the first half was very funny. Then I found the writing end was inspirational. It made you WANT to read and write and described the writing state of mind so well.
I was talking about the plot free approach to some friends, in a car full of silent kids. They all suddenly started talking at once, when I paraphrased SK's approach to the restraints of plot. They have all felt repressed by the heavy planned out plot system, set out by teachers. I think they will start writing with fresh hope, as I know I will.
This book has made me feel more positive and excited about writing than the 6 others I have read over the last 15 years. There might be a few missing elements, but the germ of inspiration overrules that. That is priceless.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting autobiography mixed with basic writing advice, 9 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: On Writing (Hardcover)
"On Writing" Stephen King calls it, but it should read "King's Autobiography Linked to Strunk and White's Rules of Writing." He writes of his early life, an odd herky-jerky experience, he calls it. It is revealing and entertaining, and his hungry fans should adore it. He includes his recent experiences with a car accident that could have proven fatal. Also, his use and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
He shares with us his extraordinary success with Carrie, and it is infectious. We almost cheer when he learns of his huge royalties.
Included is his advice (but hardly a thesis as he calls it) that good writing consists of mastering vocabularly, grammar, and the elements of style. If you are a bad writer, he says, no one can help. If you are competent, it will be a tough road to become good -- but it is possible.
Write a lot, and read a lot is his bottom line -- but scarcely original -- advice to would-be writers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Up a Best-Seller..., 6 Nov 2001
By 
Ms. Karen Miller "Hermosa" (California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Writing (Paperback)
Although Stephen King does give helpful tips and advice, this isn't a 'how to write a best-seller' book.
What makes this book remarkable is that a best-selling author has bothered to open-up and share his writing process with his readers.
Stephen King reveals where the seed for 'Carrie' came from, the changes that were necessary to make 'Misery' a success and how he coped with writer's block during 'The Dead Zone'.
Even if you're not a fan of his work, Stephen King is a number one best-seller and this is an opportunity to look into his creative process that can not be overlooked, particularly if you are a would be novelist yourself.
I particularly like the style of writing that leaves you believing the author is in the same room chatting to you personally over a cup of coffee.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Any beginners serious about writting should have this Audio, 13 Mar 2001
This is one of the most helpful pieces of information I was able to find. After attending short courses, reading self-help books and dummies guides, I finnallly found what I was looking for. A no nonsence guide to the craft.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterclass in motivation, 13 Dec 2004
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Writing (Paperback)
This is two books in one, yet it isn't. The autobiographical section is not so much a potted history of King's life as a description of his writing apprenticeship - the experiences and emotions, from the stimulants of his childhood imagination to the abuse of stimulants, from the experience of rejection to the experience of survival after being hit by a van.
Writing, King makes clear, isn't simply the ability to do joined up words or type at a keyboard. Writing is about pain and experience, knowledge and emotion, understanding and questioning. Writing is about life ... and if you want to be a good writer, then you must live to write. In the process you may have to fight to survive alcohol and drugs and poverty and loneliness ... and the dangers round that next bend. Even when you've sold your first story, you're never comfortable, never sure it wasn't a fluke and that the next one won't be hurled back in your face.
It's a fascinating insight into King's psyche, one which prepares you for the guidance he offers writers. He puts together a toolkit of advice to motivate and encourage you to write. Much of the toolkit, of course, can be described as words and sweat. If you write, language is your medium. If you want to write well, you have to work at it.
There's a strong motivational element to King's book. He pulls no punches. Not everyone can be a great writer. Everyone might have a novel in them, but not many people have a novel anyone else would want to read. Be realistic about your talent. Appreciate you can improve, can refine your skills and techniques. But, it'll take work, lots of hard work, and you may still never write a masterpiece.
But writing is a process of self-belief and self-fulfilment and self-discovery. It is, only incidentally, a commercial activity. If you can make a living from it, so much the better. Writing is as much an addiction as drugs or alcohol. It is, however, a life enhancing and life asserting addiction.
I doubt if King needs the money, but you should buy this book if you have any love of or interest in writing - whether you harbour the notion of writing that masterpiece, of simply seeing a piece in print, or whether you write a private journal and enjoy the texture of passion and tactile delight of putting words on paper. For the writer in you, this book is a must read. It's life-affirming, and so well paced, it reads like a thriller. You'll keep turning the pages and won't be able to put the light out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magician's guide to his magic., 17 Nov 2003
By 
G. T. A. Browne "black_marlin84" (Aberdeen, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Writing (Paperback)
I am a great fan of Stephen King, and for a very simple reason: he knows exactly what he's doing. In this book, he explains how he does it.
Writing is all about magic. King calls it telepathy--taking an idea in the author's mind and ensuring that the same image is received by the reader. Every successful author, regardless of genre, nationality or period, is able to convey these ideas with startling clarity. Writing forms a magic connection between author and reader. They undertake a journey together. Here, King is the guide with the lamp, showing authors how to better lead their readers on the journey.
In this book, King is writing for both fans (with the intriguing autobiographical first half) and would-be authors. The autobiography is fascinating and the hard-headed advice illuminating. This is an incredibly useful book!
I am a prize-winning author (mainly of poetry, but a novel is on its way in the next 18 months or so) and so I write a lot. This book is probably the single most influential guide I have read. Good things started happening to the quality of my work once I started applying the lessons contained within. It is an indispensible addition to any respectable shelf of writing guides (or indeed any shelf of worthwhile books), and the fact that it is written in King's lively, informative style makes reading this a pleasure rather than a chore.
What more need I say? This is how textbooks ought to be written. It's both enjoyable and essential!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, 6 April 2008
This review is from: On Writing (Paperback)
I first came to this book when it was published, and I was not. Now, with my own portfolio of publications, I have returned to it and find it as interesting, insightful and honest as I did the first time around. This isn't a "nuts and bolts" book, it tells a writer's story, his experience, his success and failure. But crucially it motivates because of its honesty. On Writing isn't prescriptive like so many, it isn't dull like so many, it is very entertaining. I can think of only two books which have a similar motivational effect: Journal of a Novel, by John Steinbeck, and Wannabe a Writer? by Jane Wenham-Jones.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING AND THE AUTHOR, 27 Nov 2002
This review is from: On Writing (Paperback)
This is two books in one really. The first half is an autobiography, in which the author recounts his life from childhood to the present day, explaining the motivation for his writing along the way. The second part goes on to give the lowdown on writing, covering the nuts and bolts of the craft in fine detail: from grammar and dialogue, to plotting and structure, pinpointing the pitfalls to watch out for that will spoil your chances of success. Writers of all stripes can learn something from this inspirational book, told in King's typically breezy style. Brilliant.
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