Cover image for On writing : a memoir of the craft
Title:
On writing : a memoir of the craft
Author:
King, Stephen, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
288 pages ; 23 cm
Summary:
This volume "really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists", written by American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy, Stephen King (b. 1947). The first third of the book contains King's memoir, which includes heartfelt tidbits about his brother, mother and his long battles with alcohol and drug addiction. The second part of the book, "On Writing, " is where aspiring novelists might find inspiration. King describes the symbolism in many of his novels and offers writers common sense advice. He presents his taboos of writing: adverbs (especially those in dialog) and the passive voice. He describes his writer's toolbox, including examples of both good and bad writing, sometimes taken from his own work, sometimes taken from other writers. He also describes his approach to research. King concludes by including a list of nearly a hundred novels that he considers the best that he's read in the last three or four years.
Language:
English
Contents:
A list of books suggested to those who want to write by Stephen King.
Reading Level:
1110 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 7.4 13.0 74610.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.5 18 Quiz: 24908 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780684853529

9780965032841
Format :
Book

Available:*

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On Order

Summary

Summary

"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.


Author Notes

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine, on September 21, 1947. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in English from the University of Maine at Orono in 1970, he became a teacher. His spare time was spent writing short stories and novels.

King's first novel would never have been published if not for his wife. She removed the first few chapters from the garbage after King had thrown them away in frustration. Three months later, he received a $2,500 advance from Doubleday Publishing for the book that went on to sell a modest 13,000 hardcover copies. That book, Carrie, was about a girl with telekinetic powers who is tormented by bullies at school. She uses her power, in turn, to torment and eventually destroy her mean-spirited classmates. When United Artists released the film version in 1976, it was a critical and commercial success. The paperback version of the book, released after the movie, went on to sell more than two-and-a-half million copies.

Many of King's other horror novels have been adapted into movies, including The Shining, Firestarter, Pet Semetary, Cujo, Misery, The Stand, and The Tommyknockers. Under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, King has written the books The Running Man, The Regulators, Thinner, The Long Walk, Roadwork, Rage, and It. He is number 2 on the Hollywood Reporter's '25 Most Powerful Authors' 2016 list.

King is one of the world's most successful writers, with more than 100 million copies of his works in print. Many of his books have been translated into foreign languages, and he writes new books at a rate of about one per year. In 2003, he received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2012 his title, The Wind Through the Keyhole made The New York Times Best Seller List. King's title's Mr. Mercedes and Revival made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2014. He won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2015 for Best Novel with Mr. Mercedes. King's title Finders Keepers made the New York Times bestseller list in 2015. Sleeping Beauties is his latest 2017 New York Times bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography) 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", & "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.

King's book, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories, made the 2015 New York Times bestseller list.

(Publisher Provided)


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

King could write a phone book and make it not only a best-seller but also gripping reading. So expect his fiction-writing how-to to be a megahit that reaches plenty of readers besides wanna-be novelists. It is riveting, thanks to King's customary flair for the vernacular and conversational tone, and to the fact that he flanks his advice with two memoirs, the latter recalling his near-fatal 1999 stint as the victim of a bad driver. The first memoir, "C.V.," concentrates on his life as a writer, which began in childhood. It took some time to publish for money, but ever since Carrie garnered $400,000 for paperback rights, he has been the Stephen King. He loves to write, though he emphasizes it is far more work than play. Loving it is essential, though, and having a good "toolbox," full of vocabulary, grammar, and the usage and mechanics prescribed by Strunk and White's perdurable Elements of Style, is next most important. It is invaluable to read a lot, and the key to novel writing is following the story--not a plot that can be charted or outlined, but the developments natural for the characters, given the situation they are in. For himself, King says, good health and a good marriage have been crucial, never more so than during his recovery from the accident. Good advice and a good, ordinary life, relayed in spunky, vivid prose, are the prime ingredients of what must be considered not at all the usual writer's guide. --Ray Olson


Publisher's Weekly Review

"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 scribesDalthough 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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

This book really is a blend of memoir (the author discusses his childhood and adolescence) and craft (there's a discussion of the tools of the trade as well). And why not take your writing lessons from a King? (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-By the time King was 14, the scads of rejection slips he'd accumu-lated 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 rhap-sodies 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 passion-ately 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

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 date with Bryan Smith (not to mention Bullet the rottweiler), I sat down at our dining room table and listed all the questions I wanted to answer, all the points I wanted to address. On the eighteenth, I wrote the first four pages of the "On Writing" section. That was where the work still stood in late July, when I decided I'd better get back to work...or at least try. I didn't want to go back to work. I was in a lot of pain, unable to bend my right knee, and restricted to a walker. I couldn't imagine sitting behind a desk for long, even in my wheelchair. Because of my cataclysmically smashed hip, sitting was torture after forty minutes or so, impossible after an hour and a quarter. Added to this was the book itself, which seemed more daunting than ever -- how was I supposed to write about dialogue, character, and getting an agent when the most pressing thing in my world was how long until the next dose of Percocet? Yet at the same time I felt I'd reached one of those crossroads moments when you're all out of choices. And I had been in terrible situations before which the writing had helped me get over -- had helped me forget myself for at least a little while. Perhaps it would help me again. It seemed ridiculous to think it might be so, given the level of my pain and physical incapacitation, but there was that voice in the back of my mind, both patient and implacable, telling me that, in the words of the Chambers Brothers, Time Has Come Today. It's possible for me to disobey that voice, but very difficult to disbelieve it. In the end it was Tabby who cast the deciding vote, as she so often has at crucial moments in my life. I'd like to think I've done the same for her from time to time, because it seems to me that one of the things marriage is about is casting the tiebreaking vote when you just can't decide what you should do next. My wife is the person in my life who's most likely to say I'm working too hard, it's time to slow down, stay away from that damn PowerBook for a little while, Steve, give it a rest. When I told her on that July morning that I thought I'd better go back to work, I expected a lecture. Instead, she asked me where I wanted to set up. I told her I didn't know, hadn't even thought about it. She thought about it, then said: "I can rig a table for you in the back hall, outside the pantry. There are plenty of plug-ins -- you can have your Mac, the little printer, and a fan." The fan was certainly a must -- it had been a terrifically hot summer, and on the day I went back to work, the temperature outside was ninety-five. It wasn't much cooler in the back hall. Tabby spent a couple of hours putting things together, and that afternoon at four o'clock she rolled me out through the kitchen and down the newly installed wheelchair ramp into the back hall. She had made me a wonderful little nest there: laptop and printer connected side by side, table lamp, manuscript (with my notes from the month before placed neatly on top), pens, reference materials. Standing on the corner of the desk was a framed picture of our younger son, which she had taken earlier that summer. "Is it all right?" she asked. "It's gorgeous," I said, and hugged her. It was gorgeous. So is she. The former Tabitha Spruce of Oldtown, Maine, knows when I'm working too hard, but she also knows that sometimes its the work that bails me out. She got me positioned at the table, kissed me on the temple, and then left me there to find out if I had anything left to say. It turned out I did. Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King Excerpted from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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