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On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft Paperback – June 1, 2001
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The Washington Post Book World Combines autobiography and admonition, inspiration and instruction. It's an enjoyable mix. -- Review
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Prize. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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I'm not a hardcore Stephen King fan, but I have read a lot of his books. It is therefore not his 'popular fiction' that I am criticizing, but rather his writing memoir.
There is actually very little information about WRITING in this book. The first third of the book is taken up by Mr. King's childhood, and the last third of the book is taken up by his accident. If all Mr. King wanted to do was to describe the minute details of this accident and his great courage in moving on with life, perhaps he should have waited for someone else to write his biography? As it is, PATHETIC is the only word that comes to mind.
The few tips on writing included in the book may provide some interesting conversational material (eg. did you know that Mr. King once wrote a book in one week?) but are otherwise useless. Is this book directed at aspiring writers, or at 1st grade children learning how to form words? Mr. King seems to think they are both the same; I have to disagree.
Mr. King wonders why people don't ask pouplar fiction writers about the 'language' in their books. Funny that someone who writes about his 'cataclysmically smashed hip' should ask that question.
It is not the tips on writing that stick in my mind after reading this book, but rather the lack of respect Mr. King has for his readers. I'd say Mr. King failed in his attempt to 'not waste my time'. But of course, I don't believe that was his real intent: selling us the book and making more money is probably closer to the truth.
If you're interested in Mr. King's life story (but not in his writing because alas, there's not much on that!) read this book. If, however, you're interested in books on writing, give Room to Write and Writing Down the Bones a try!
I have read a lot of books on the craft of writing and often this work was mentioned, so I thought I gave it a try. I have to say the title is misleading, and the work is a failed attempt to be both a biography and a book on writing. Sorry to say, but I do not think his life is worth a biography, so I really wanted it for tips on the craft. As other reviews have pointed out, true, there are some interesting thoughts on writing in this book, which is reason enough to read it - even though you might already have many books on the craft. We can always learn more and there are some nuggets here
* King writes his first draft with the door closed to boost creativity (the second one with the door open to get suggestions) and
* King envisions an ideal reader (for the second and later drafts) when writing the story, thus bypassing the need to please all the readers.
That's all, folks. Sad but true. The rest of the tips on writing were all clichés, intertwined with his biography. I hoped for more advice on writing, and what I got was statements like: work hard, the magic will come later, or not. And more 'tips' that we have all read dozens of times elsewhere: show versus tell (which he gets even wrong, claiming it is always better to show - it is not if you want to speed up your story). Others are: 1) do not use expressions like "he said, enthusiastically", 2) you have to read a lot, 3) writing classes are ok but, et cetera. One thing irritated me especially though; King himself is unforgiving on these basic writing mistakes (he uses the f-word to stress this - telling the reader something he cannot express otherwise apparently), like putting background story to the foreground and what do we get? Page after page lamenting his near death story after he got hit by a hillbilly in 1999, which had nothing to do with the writing at all, and which I simply did not find interesting.
With a title On Writing, what I expected was a book that would show the craft and maybe my expectations were wrong.
If you want books on writing, read all the Readers Digest series on Writing that you can find. They are concise, they specialize on one topic per book (characters, setting, dialogue etc) and are full of examples on how to, and how not to. Indispensable, unlike King's book.
If you want a biography that is truly about a life of books and writing (and beautiful remarks about the craft), read the magnificent knockout "The Words" (Les Mots) from Jean Paul Sartre, which won him the Nobel Prize (which he refused of course). It was for a reason that Hemingway called him the general.