On Writing

On Writing

A Memoir of the Craft

Book - 2000
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"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft -- and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily 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, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade -- how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection. Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower -- and entertain -- everyone who reads it.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, c2000
ISBN: 9780684853529
Branch Call Number: 813.54 KIN 2000
Characteristics: 288 p


From the critics

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Dec 09, 2017

Inept readers call this a novel; many reviewers totally miss the point King clearly makes at the incept: he tells us how he bacame an author, and even though he had a better backgroud for becoming a successful writer, he tells us we all can do so; and he clearly says few will become great writers. He then describes how we can become at least competent writers. He uses personal illustrations to allow us to see more clearly that most literate people (there are actually very few these days after years of black history in government schools) can become competent writers.

Oct 23, 2017

This novel made me laugh while making me feel more confident as a writer.

Check out my review of "On Writing: A Memoir of Craft" on my blog at:

May 04, 2017

Great insight for writers. Loved it.

Feb 11, 2017

I read it twice, the first time soon after it came out, the second time this week. The first time I recall that I reeled back in horror when he described a verb mood as a "tense," but I've long gotten over that. So, he's not a grammar expert--no big deal. It's not that the basic advice isn't good:

* read a lot -- good and bad books both, as you'll learn from both
* write a lot, and set a production quota and meet it
* critique groups are of limited use and should be avoiding during drafting
* don't revise forever--twice through is good enough
* be dogged in seeking publication

It is good advice, though you can read it many other places for free, online and in books going back fifty years.

But this book is too much about Stephen King and too little about writing to be considered a good writing craft book. And this time, my opinion did not change much. I rolled my eyes at the portrait he presented of the hard-working young writer. Oh the work ethic aspect is good and the doggedness bit is good, and the "present yourself professionally" advice is good. All are requirements, but five publications in the Podunk Review getting the guy an agent for a novel not yet written? Not true in 1999 when this was first published, and laughable today. Perhaps true in 1967...but the publishing world radically changed between then and 1999, and he should have asked someone whose father was not Stephen King how it was going for normal writers. Also, he really slides by the fact that this young writer dude has made $100 in sales over a few years (plus a literary prize payout--and literary prizes almost always have an entry fee, so the imaginary writer might have spent twice that to win the award) while King has made -- well, I don't know, but surely well over over one million times that much. The gulf between them is wide and the chances of crossing it for the imaginary writer dude are near zero. The average annual salary for novelists is $4000/year and genre novel advances have gone down, not up, since Carrie, as difficult as that is to comprehend. It's a bit duplicitous to imply otherwise. As is saying "the money never mattered to me." If he and his wife were still living in a trailer rather than having two "summer homes" on both sides of the same lake, I bet you he wouldn't be still "writing anyway because the money never mattered." The money does matter -- it matters to the bank and power company, but I guess rich people forget that sort of thing. It's a rare person can write for thirty years and make $4000 per year on average and still soldier on. I've met a few, and I applaud them, but I know a lot more who gave up because making perhaps $2/hour seems a little insane after a few decades.

And of course today, self-publishing ebooks has radically changed everything. So this book is almost hopelessly outdated. All of this information is available elsewhere, and there are some terrific craft writing books with detailed and actionable advice, but this isn't one of them. This is pretty much only for people who like Stephen King. It's beloved by them, but I'd bet you it never turned a wannabe into a real writer.

Timmeh4248 Jan 21, 2017

Stephen King and I really should be besties. We have a lot in common: we both started writing at a young age, we both taught English, we both don't fully understand Blood Meridian, and we share a hatred of adverbs.

I have probably already shared my favorite Stephen King hospital story in another review but I don't care. While in the hospital recovering from a broken neck I was reading Bag of Bones. Naturally, I was on some really strong medication and fell asleep reading. I dreamt that I read that entire book and woke up to discover that I was on page 88. It was probably the strangest morphine dream ever as the whole thing consisted of the very normal activity on scanning words and flipping pages. Before anybody asks, no I don't remember what I dreamt for an ending and no, it wasn't even close to the real ending.

Anyone who reads King will appreciate this book for the backstory of several of King's more popular novels. Everybody has their personal favorite, apparently many feel that it's The Stand, but I have several that I have liked immensely since that novel: Wizard and Glass, Just After Sunset, and Finders Keepers to name a few.

The section on the writing process is really engaging and includes some very good tactics that I have never considered before. Probably the most surprising is the advice to put the manuscript away for 6 weeks before starting the revision process. I don't agree with everything he says but who am I? Certainly not a person who has published more than 50 books. If you have ever even thought about writing this would be a great place to start.

SaraLovesBooks Nov 01, 2016

This book unlocked Stephen King for me. I had read other books by him before this one, but I had problems with his style. He has a different rhythm to his words than I was used to. But I listened to this book when I was having to do a long commute for a semester in college, and it happened to be narrated by Stephen King. It was so amazing to listen to. I love the memoir quality of the first half of the book, and the how-to quality of the second half.

Sep 12, 2016

I'm not a huge Stephen King fan. So, it is possible that I was prejudiced. The book started out well with KIng's self deprecatory account of his trials and tribulations as a young writer in school. My interest waned however in the later pages and I don't think I learned too much about the craft of writing from this book.

Jul 19, 2016

Part biography, part how-to guide, this is an entertaining and highly informative manual of the craft of writing.

Jun 13, 2016

This book is witty and a wonderful read for aspiring writers. King's voice is full of dry humor. When offering advice to writers, he remains honest and encouraging. Definitely worth the read.

Dec 07, 2015

Stephen King spends an inordinate amount of this book repeating the mantra that you can't transform a bad writer into a good writer- that it is only possible to turn a mediocre writer into a decent or good writer.

The problem is that King then proceeds to explain precisely how he went from a bad writer to a good writer, and arguably a great writer. The irony, is that King doesn't seem to recognize the process as he depicts it. The best writing advise is given in the memoir section when King is unaware than he is explaining the process by which he turned himself into a writer. Even as he complains about people who don't consider writing a craft, King is still willing to hide behind ideas such as a literal muse and natural writerly talent. This book was intriguing and contradictory, but still highly useful if the reader is willing to ignore King's advise and focus on his method as depicted.

This books depicts the irony that many successful people are unaware of what makes them successful.

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Aug 06, 2015

"Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."
(King, 101)

Jun 13, 2015

"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just go to work."

Dec 17, 2013

"... sometimes even a monster is no monster. Sometimes it's beautiful and we fall in love with all that story, more than any film or TV program could ever hope to provide. Even after a thousand pages we don't want to leave the world the writer has made for us, or the make-believe people who live there."

Dec 17, 2013

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Dec 17, 2013

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page."

Jul 15, 2013

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Lumpy694 Jan 23, 2012

stopped at page156

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Dec 15, 2015

scottwoods thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Aug 06, 2015

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Jul 24, 2012

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