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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Paperback – 1 Sep 2001
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Absolutely fascinating (Sunday Times)
Not since Dickens has a writer had so many readers by the throat...King's imagination is vast. He knows how to engage the deepest sympathies of his readers...a bizarre and absorbing story, told brilliantly by one of the great storytellers of our time (Guardian)
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)
Energetic, vivid and observant (Daily Telegraph)
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)
At last...the Number 1 bestselling writer offers a unique insight into his life and work as well as inspiring advice and instruction on writing.See all Product description
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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...
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.
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.
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