On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

Scribner | October 3, 2000 | Hardcover |

4.8333 out of 5 rating. 18 Reviews
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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.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 0 × 0 × 0 in

Published: October 3, 2000

Publisher: Scribner

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0684853523

ISBN - 13: 9780684853529

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– More About This Product –

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 0 × 0 × 0 in

Published: October 3, 2000

Publisher: Scribner

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0684853523

ISBN - 13: 9780684853529

Read from the Book

I actually began On Writing in November or December of 1997, and although it usually takes me only three months to finish the first draft of a book, this one was still only half-completed eighteen months later. That was because I''d put it aside in February or March of 1998, not sure how to continue, or if I should continue at all. Writing fiction was almost as much fun as it had ever been, but every word of the nonfiction book was a kind of torture. It was the first book I had put aside uncompleted since The Stand , and On Writing spent a lot longer in the desk drawer. In June of 1999, I decided to spend the summer finishing the damn writing book -- let Susan Moldow and Nan Graham at Scribner decide if it was good or bad, I thought. I read the manuscript over, prepared for the worst, and discovered I actually sort of liked what I had. The road to finishing it seemed clear-cut, too. I had finished the memoir ("C.V."), which attempted to show some of the incidents and life-situations which made me into the sort of writer I turned out to be, and I had covered the mechanics -- those that seemed most important to me, at least. What remained to be done was the key section, "On Writing," where I''d try to answer some of the questions I''d been asked in seminars and at speaking engagements, plus all those I wish I''d been asked...those questions about the language. On the night of June seventeenth, blissfully unaware that I was now less than forty-eight hours from my little
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From the Publisher

"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

Stephen King is the author of more than thirty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Bag of Bones, and The Green Mile. On Writing is his first book of nonfiction since Danse Macabre, published in 1981. He served as a judge for Prize Stories: The Best of 1999, The O. Henry Awards. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

From Our Editors

Stephen King offers aspiring writers a clear, insightful and practical guide to the craft. Entertaining, illuminating and empowering, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft chronicles King's writing experience, beginning with his childhood, through adolescence, college and the struggling years that led to his first novel, Carrie. King then covers the basic tools of a writer's craft, explaining how to hone and develop them through use and make them readily available. Discover the many facets of a writer's life and art, with invaluable advice on everything from creating plot and character to forming solid work habits and handling rejection.

Editorial Reviews

"The best book on writing. Ever."--The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Bookclub Guide

A Reading Group Guide for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Points of Discussion

  1. Do you agree with Stephen King that the desire to write always starts with a love of reading?
  2. What role did Stephen King''s childhood play in his evolution as a writer? Did your childhood experiences influence your desire to write?
  3. King was encouraged from a young age by his mother, who told him one of his boyhood stories was "good enough to be in a book." Was there someone in your life who encouraged your earliest efforts?
  4. At what age do you remember thinking you wanted to write? What do you remember writing when you were young?
  5. King''s wife Tabitha is his "Ideal Reader," the one-person audience he has in mind when writing a first draft. When you write, do you envision a particular Ideal Reader? Who is that person and why?
  6. While King delights in the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the writing process, he concedes that good writing involves magic as well. Do you agree with King''s assertion that "while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one?" To what degree can a writer be made? To what extent can writing be taught? What writerly skills do you come by naturally, and which have you had to work to acquire or improve?
  7. Discuss King''s "toolbox" analogy. What "tools" do you find most indispensable when you write? Are there any you would add to King''s toolbox?
  8. King believes that stories are "found things, like fossils in the ground." Discuss King''s extended metaphor of "writing as excavation." Do you agree with this theory?
  9. According to King, good story ideas "seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky," and often don''t ignite until they collide with another idea that also comes unbidden. Do you find that ideas for stories or writing projects come to you out of the blue, or do you have to search for them? What serves as the basis for most of your stories? A situation? A character? A moral dilemma? King recalls a dream that led him to the writing of his book Misery. Have you ever gotten a story idea from a dream? Discuss how you discovered your best ideas and how they evolved into finished stories.
  10. King describes the dangers of seeking reader response -- or "opening the door" -- too early or too frequently. At what stage in a writing project do you solicit critical feedback from others? When you do "open the door," who are the first readers you ask for advice? Why do you trust those readers and what are you looking to hear from them?
  11. King doesn''t read in order to "study the craft" but believes that there is "a learning process going on" when he reads. Do you read books differently as a writer? Are you conscious of "the craft" as you read?
  12. In the first foreword to On Writing, King talks about the fact that no one ever asks popular writers about the language. Yet he cares passionately about language and about the art and craft of telling stories on paper. Do you think there is a false distinction between writers who write extraordinary sentences and writers who tell stories?
  13. Often, King says, "bad books have more to teach than the good ones." He believes that most writers remember the first book they put down thinking "I can do better than this." Can you remember a book that gave you that feeling? Why?
  14. King''s self-imposed "production schedule" is 2,000 words a day and he suggests that all writers set a daily writing goal. What kind of discipline, if any, do you impose upon your own writing efforts? Do you always write at the same time of day? If so, when and why? Do you try to maintain a steady pace? Does adherence to a strict routine help your writing efforts?
  15. King tells a story about getting his fantasy desk, a massive oak slab that he placed in the middle of his spacious study. For six years, he sat "behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of [his] mind." After sobering up, he replaced the desk with a smaller one that he put in a corner. "Life isn''t a support system for art," he figured out. "It''s the other way around." Discuss King''s "revelation" and the symbolism of the placement of the desk.
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