"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.
About the Author
Fiction powerhouse Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine, in 1947. As a student at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, became active in political causes, and met his wife, the former Tabitha Spruce. In the early years of his marriage, King augmented his meager teacher's salary by selling short stories to men's magazines. Then, in 1973 he hit pay dirt: his novel Carrie was accepted for publication, and a major paperback deal provided the means for him to leave teaching and concentrate full-time on writing. Since then, the prolific author has never looked back.
Dubbed the Master of the Macabre for his domination of the horror genre, King has also written bestselling thrillers, mysteries, fantasies, novellas, and short stories, many of which have been turned into blockbuster films and miniseries (A partial list includes Carrie, The Shining, The Stand,, Misery, It, The Shawshank Redemption, The Langoliers, Stand by Me, and The Green Mile). He also has two works of nonfiction to his credit: a gorgeously crafted memoir/scribbler's how-to (On Writing) and Faithful, a chronicle of the Boston Red Sox' stellar 2004 season, cowritten with Stewart O'Nan. In 2003, he received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
In between books, the indefatigable King performs in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band that includes among its rotating personnel fellow authors Dave Barry and Amy Tan; attends as many Boston Red Sox games as is humanly possible; and contributes with his wife, Tabitha, to many local and national charities.
USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer
Stephen King's On Writing, has wonderful moments. It made me think of King as I think of The Beatles. Both hit it big early. Both used their popularity to grow, experiment, study, and learn from others. King is still at, still telling stories after all these years.
"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 scribes--although 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 Cahners Business Information.
This is Stephen King's first nonfiction book and it is excellent. Even those who do not care for King's novels will find this book worthwhile. In his first of three forewords, King explains that his purpose is to "attempt to put down, briefly and simply, how I came to the craft, what I know about it now, and how it's done." In the first section of the book King shares some of the experiences and memories that helped shape him as a person and as a writer. These "snapshots," as he calls them, are interesting, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes sad and hilarious at the same time. Soon after college, King married, had two children, and taught English in Hampden, Maine, as he tried to get Carrie, his first novel, published. The paperback rights eventually sold for $400,000 and King's career was launched. Along the way, he fought battles with alcoholism and drug addiction. In another section King describes the "toolbox" that every writer must have. Among the items needed, King discusses vocabulary, grammar, and style. He offers good practical advice such as "the adverb is not your friend." He also refers all aspiring writers to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style as essential reading. In fact, "read a lot and write a lot" are two of the most fundamental keys to successful writing. Instead of advising writers to write what they know, he suggests that they write, "anything at all... as long as you tell the truth." King provides insight into the way he creates a story as well as specific suggestions about the use of dialogue, symbolism, and theme. He also discusses his approach to writing each day and his rule that a second draft should be 10% shorter than the first. He evendiscusses what to look for in an agent. King was in the middle of writing this book in 1999 when he suffered serious injuries when hit by a car while walking. His desire to finish the book actually helped in his long rehabilitation process. He explains that writing "had helped me forget myself for at least a while" and he hopes "it would help me again." The novels of Stephen King have many young people reading; this book may encourage some of them to start writing as well. Teachers will find this book full of helpful suggestions. There are examples of "bad" writing and discussions for improvement. A word of caution must be included, however, since King is fairly frequent in his use of inappropriate language. KLIATT Codes: A*—Exceptional book, recommended for advanced students, and adults. 2000, Pocket Books, 288p., $14.95. Ages 17 to adult. Reviewer: Anthony J. Pucci; English Dept. Chair., Notre Dame H.S., Elmira, NY , September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
In 1981 King penned Danse Macabre, a thoughtful analysis of the horror genre. Now he is treating his vast readership to another glimpse into the intellect that spawns his astoundingly imaginative works. This volume, slim by King standards, manages to cover his life from early childhood through the aftermath of the 1999 accident that nearly killed him. Along the way, King touts the writing philosophies of William Strunk and Ernest Hemingway, advocates a healthy appetite for reading, expounds upon the subject of grammar, critiques a number of popular writers, and offers the reader a chance to try out his theories. But most important, we who climb aboard for this ride with the master spend a few pleasant hours under the impression that we know what it s like to think like Stephen King. Recommended for anyone who wants to write and everyone who loves to read. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/00.] Nancy McNicol, Hagaman Memorial Lib., East Haven, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-By the time King was 14, the scads of rejection slips he'd accumulated grew too heavy for the nail in the wall on which they were mounted. He replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing. This straight-up book inspires without being corny, and teens suspicious of adult rhapsodies to perseverance will let down their guard and be put at ease by the book's gritty conversational tone. The first 100 pages are pure memoir--paeans to the horror movies and fanzines that captivated King as a child, the expected doses of misadventure (weeks of detention for distributing his own satirical zine at school; building an electromagnet that took out the electricity of half a street), and hard times. King writes just as passionately in the second half of the book, where the talk turns to his craft. He provides plenty of samples of awkward or awful writing and contrasts them with polished versions. Hand this title to reluctant readers and reluctant writers, sit back, and watch what happens.-Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Internet Book Watch
This presentation is mostly a memoir with a treatise on writing thrown in, and will attract any fan of horror writer Stephen King. King's life, his penchant for horror, and his influences and intentions come alive in descriptions which welcome the reader into King's life and art. The final chapter, chronicling his fight for life and ability to walk again, is a moving conclusion and testimony to his life of life - and writing.
New York Times - Janet Maslin
[King's] warmly conversational book about literary craftsmanship should interest even those who find something oxymoronic in its conception. As someone who describes the authorial brainstorm of setting off a bomb in The Stand because the story was becoming overpopulated, he may not be the most noble of stylists, but there's no denying that he knows how to make a story fly...Monstrous as it was, [King's accident, in which he was struck by a car] turned On Writing into a much stronger, more meaningful book than it might have been. Halfway through this project, when he was hurt, Mr. King incorporated his revivifying return to work into this book's narrative in ways that will make readers realize just how vital it has been for him. And the accident is eloquently described here, as a sterling illustration of all the writing guidelines that have come before. For once, less is more in Mr. King's storytelling, and the horror needs no help from his imagination.
Generous, lucid, and passionate, King (Hearts in Atlantis, 1999, etc.) offers lessons and encouragement to the beginning writer, along with a warts-and-all account of a less-than-carefree life.
"This is a special book, animated by a unique intelligence, and filled with useful truth."--Michael Chabon
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 6th July 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Dimensions (cm): 21.3 x 14.0 x 2.0
Weight (kg): 0.34