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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  125,037 Ratings  ·  9,473 Reviews
Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. For the first time, here's an intimate autobiographical portrait of his home life, his family and his traumatic recent accident. Citing examples of his work and those of his contemporaries, King gives an excellent masterclass on writing - how t ...more
Kindle Edition, 388 pages
Published (first published October 3rd 1999)
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Jshalhov I think the book it worth reading for anyone who currently writes and wants to improve by taking on some new concepts. Also, it has some interesting…moreI think the book it worth reading for anyone who currently writes and wants to improve by taking on some new concepts. Also, it has some interesting stories about King's life (many explaining the roots for story ideas he had). Good for serious writers and/or serious King fans.

If you aren't that serious about writing, you could go find some of his writing tips summarized online. (less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Madeline
Dec 16, 2015 Madeline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Let's be honest: Stephen King is not one of the greatest writers of all time. He will never win a Pulitzer or a Nobel (he might win a Newberry though, if he ever decides to tap into the Kids/Young Adult market), and on the few times his books are featured in the New York Times Book Review, the reviewer will treat the book with a sort of haughty disdain, knowing their time could be better spent trashing Joyce Carol Oates.

None of this should suggest, however, that King is not qualified to write a
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 17, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any aspiring writer
Shelves: read07, favorites, writing
I read this shortly after finishing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, actually it would be more accurate to say I devoured it. This is full of great writing advice, and I'll need to get a copy and read it 1-2 times a year. Most helpful? The section on grammar! Seriously, I never really learned grammar.
"Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being jus
...more
Wil Wheaton
Jan 02, 2010 Wil Wheaton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-project
I know it's like saying "puppies are cute," but it bears repeating: everyone who wants to write, whether for a living or not, simply must read this book.

On Writing did more for me as a writer than anything, and any success I've found as a storyteller can be traced to my reading it.
Riku Sayuj
Sep 11, 2013 Riku Sayuj rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is great and if you like writing, it is probably a must read.

I could write a summary of the book, it is easy enough to summarize and there are only a few important points that King presents, but then I dont want you to get it for free. :) Go and read the book yourself, it is worth it.

Rude? As King says, "...if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write
...more
Lou
This is a must read for writers, readers and Stephen King fans.
Fully laden with inspiration to walk the walk and start that journey of writing a story of you're own from short story to a full novel. Imagine great writers of the past like Dickens around to give advice to aspiring writers it's a real opportunity to grasp.

This man, Stephen King, worked hard to make himself into a writer and had sheer determination, from working all hours to pay his college education to writing his first stories i
...more
J. Kent Messum
There are countless books out there on writing, storytelling, screenwriting, style, etc. A lot of them are too formulaic and more than a bit bloody cliche. To be honest, the majority usually prove to be a waste of time. But there are a few that are great, and 'On Writing' is definitely one of them. Stephen King is a household name, no doubt, but of all Mr. King’s books, this is the one I praise the most. Part biography, part ‘How-to’ manual, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone.

Ther
...more
Jason Koivu
Mar 25, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, writing
On Writing is for me hands-down the best book I've read about the craft of writing and living the life of a writer by a writer.

This is not a textbook on grammar and sentence structure. No, the subtitle very succinctly describes the contents. This is about Stephen King's journey to become a published author and his experiences in wrestling with words.

To hear stories about how one of the world's most popular authors once upon a time struggled just like the rest of us mortals is refreshing. Those
...more
Andrew Smith
This is very much a book of three parts. In the first section, King provides a series of anecdotes that seem somewhat fractured and random. They loosely cover his early years, the time before he became a successful writer. Some of the tales are a little spooky, to be honest. Others clearly portray what it was like for him, his wife and his children when he was spending long hours writing whilst also holding down a day job. He had a number of jobs, some pretty menial, but he eventually settled in ...more
Fahad
Feb 28, 2015 Fahad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
On Writing

حصلت على هذا الكتاب وقرأته على الكندل، كأول تجربة لي مع هذا الجهاز الرائع والذي صنع بعناية للقراء، أكثر ما أعجبني في الكندل هو أنه يخبرك عن السطور التي أعجبت الكثير من الناس فقاموا بتظليلها، هكذا تتشارك القراءة مع كل من اشترى الكتاب وقرأه على الكندل مثلك.

كتب ستيفن كنج عشرات الروايات والقصص، يكتب بمعدل عالٍ، وتتحول قصصه إلى أفلام شهيرة حال صدورها، في هذا الكتاب يتحدث كنج عن تجربته، عن بداياته مع الكتابة والظروف الصعبة التي مر بها، وكيف كان يعمل في وظيفتين ليعيل زوجة وطفلين، ثم يعود لي
...more
Leah Heard
Sep 21, 2008 Leah Heard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this book more than five stars. The first 100 or so pages were highly colored anecdotes from SK's childhood (did you know Stephen King had an obese, negligent babysitter who used to sit on his head and fart? me neither). I thought the whole book was going to be like this--a personal history intertwined with the occasional tip about persistence, and that was OK with me. That's how entertaining the first bit is. It certainly makes the book worth reading even for those uninteres ...more
Becky
Dec 16, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Stephen King Fans
I love Stephen King. I'm not IN love with him, but I love his writing, his stories, his characters, and now, his advice: "Read a lot." (4-6 hours a day, even!)

Yessir, Mr. King! Finally some advice I want to heed! OK, I should say that this is really only a small fraction of the wisdom he imparts in this book, and I neglectfully left out the "write a lot" part that immediately follows "read a lot".

But I have never actually aspired to be a writer, so the reading part is good enough for me. I adm
...more
Stepheny


What better day to post a review for this book than on Stephen King’s birthday?

Happy Birthday, ya crazy bastard. ;)

Anyway- as most of the GR community knows I am the real life Annie Wilkes a huge fan of Stephen King. He has been a major influence in my life since I was about 10 years old. His writing changed my life. His books changed my mind; my way of thinking.

Listen, not everyone knows this but I’m about to out myself. I am an aspiring writer. I don’t flash it, I don’t wave it out there for
...more
Arah-Lynda
Mar 05, 2013 Arah-Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, to-the-island, i-said
I think that this was a very courageous book for Stephen King to write.


And I loved the casual, conversational tone as King shares with us, glimpse’s into his life both before and after his initial success. He doesn’t pull any punches either; we see the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is somehow, not at all, and exactly what I expected. In truth, I loved the memoir part best but even those parts that are instructional in the art of writing are very engaging.

Is it not incredible, that such a gif
...more
Julie
100 percent loved this. I may even knock it up to "It was amazing" as its treasure trove of advice sinks in.

Here's the thing: Stephen King knows how to tell a story. From the early to late 80s- junior high through mid-university years- I read nearly everything he'd written. His novels are the only of the horror-genre that I've read; it's never been my cup of tea, either in print or film, but King's writing has always been a cut above. He is the literary equivalent of Bruce Springsteen. I don't
...more
Thomas
This is a fantastic book about writing - recommended to me by numerous friends and acquaintances, it did not disappoint. With most nonfiction I feel as if I do not really need to remember every detail or fact listed, but with On Writing I wish that I could. It offers an abundance of useful advice that would do any writer much good, regardless of age or experience.

At first I felt unsettled by the anecdotes - when I began the novel, I expected something like "writing = grammar + salesmanship" or s
...more
Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)
Dec 22, 2008 Katharine (Ventureadlaxre) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: wannabe authors
Shelves: on-writing, read-2008
Well now. I have never read any of Stephen King's work, and after reading this... well, now I don't really want to.

He came across as a pretentious sod and honestly, I'm put off by his tone and how he ... well, he really sounded condescending in many parts of this. I hesitate at saying such things over an author who everyone else seems to love, but... well, I'm just saying 'What I Learned from this book.'

It has some good parts, yes, but the main thing I agreed with him on is the one thing almost
...more
Quentin Wallace
Apr 22, 2015 Quentin Wallace rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying I think every writer that is even a casual Stephen King fan should read this book. I would even suggest reading it through one time, then going back over the writing portions again. It offers very straightforward advice on how to make your writing better. About half of the book is a memoir, and the other half is writing advice and tips. The memoir does tie into the writing part, however, by showing some of his motivation and things that lead him to write the way he does. I ...more
Franco  Santos
Escribir es mágico; es, en la misma medida que cualquier otra arte de creación, el agua de la vida. El agua es gratis. Así que bebe. Bebe y sacia tu sed.
Es uno de los libros más curiosos de King. Yo pensaba, antes de comprarlo, que iba a ser muy pesado y aburrido.
Me equivoqué.
Stephen logra enseñarnos el oficio de la escritura de manera distendida, fluida, entretenida, y hasta graciosa.

Los libros son una magia única portátil.

Esta novela de no-ficción tiene también una breve biografía del
...more
Nicola
May 01, 2007 Nicola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers of all sorts
Shelves: nonfiction
Stephen King’s book On Writing offers insight into how one writer grew into his style and what defines the way he works on his craft. This is not the end all and be all for all writers but simply an example of how it can be done. King also provides valuable information on some of the technicalities of writing, including a very helpful simile likening a writer’s skills to a toolbox.

One extremely helpful notion King illustrated in his book was the idea of the Ideal Reader. This is the person you h
...more
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who understandably assumed stephen king sucked at pretty much everything
Everything I've ever heard about this book was prefaced with something along the lines of "I know Stephen King kind of sucks, but..." and that seems pretty fair to me. I'm not a big (or, rather, not at all) fan of horror shit, and even though I grew up living about an hour away from the dude I never felt compelled to anything of his (though he does have a cool gate at his house)

I guess I borrowed this from someone, as I no longer have it. It was a long time ago, but I remember getting the impres
...more
Tracey
Feb 20, 2015 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, bio, 5-star
Never saw that coming. I don’t read horror novels; I don’t tolerate the whole genre well. (I tried to watch some of Halloween H2O when it played at the theatre I was working in – I lasted four not particularly terrifying minutes.) Prior to last week I’d read three of his books: Gerald’s Game, which I had to read for school (art school, that is: we had to do a cover for a Stephen King novel; don’t know how I chose this one), Rose Madder (did I get it from the library? I don’t own it…), and The Ey ...more
José
Apr 07, 2016 José rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stephen-king
Reseña en mi blog: Click Aquí.
Sección con reseñas de Stephen King y recomendaciones en este enlace.

"Escribir no es cuestión de ganar dinero, hacerse famoso, ligar mucho ni hacer amistades. En último término, se trata de enriquecer las vidas de las personas que leen lo que haces, y al mismo tiempo enriquecer la tuya. Es levantarse, recuperarse y superar lo malo. Ser feliz, vaya. Ser feliz. (...) Escribir es mágico; es, en la misma medida que cualquier otra arte de creación, el agua de la vida. E
...more
Joey
Dec 12, 2014 Joey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, language, writing
Carrie , Bags of Bones, The Shining, The Dark Tower, you name it- I always turn my back on them whenever I spot them at my stomping ground. I guess Stephen King’s are not my cup of coffee. I had the conception that writing gothic novels is intended to scare out of readers’ wit. Nevertheless, after reading On Writing, I want to make a stab at his works.

On Writing is all about King’s writing experiences, especially how he developed his skills in writing fictions. Also, the last three parts deal w
...more
Dustin
Aug 02, 2012 Dustin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: favorites

Roughly one month ago, my old paperback copy of King's On Writing resurfaced, seemingly happenstance, and I, in turn, told my wife, Tanya, that she should read it.
"You really should," I emphasized.
She demurred, practically insisting I re-read it.
"Even though it would be my third reading?" I asked, incredulous that she'd suggest such a thing.
She went on to say--and hope--that it'd inspire me enough to write again.

Needless to say, her words impacted me, and I couldn't clear my mind of the no
...more
Jillian
Sep 20, 2008 Jillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers, King fans
I thought this was great. I'm going to list some pearls of wisdom and favorite facts I learned.
-Editors are always right.
-Buy the Elements of Style. Check!
-King's wife is a feminist. Her name is Tabitha.
-King likes the Ramones:)
-King's a democrat that worked at the library:)
-Quote, "My generation had the chance to change the world, and the chose to go shopping instead." Yup:(
-King's from Maine.
-The term, "slits-o-clock," definition: getting drunk at 6 p.m.
-I love what King says about his wife gi
...more
Alison
Jul 24, 2008 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers, writers
Shelves: ew25best
You don't have to be a fan of Stephen King's work to appreciate this memoir--part auto-biography, part instructional guide to writing.

I was most caught up in his stories recalling his early days as a writer (as a child up until he sold the paperback rights to Carrie). I also enjoyed his common sense, accessible advice for writers (up until the point when he talks about finding agents, etc.--that was actually a little boring to me, although I know he meant well).

I enjoyed his voice--casual, frie
...more
Jennifer
Mar 27, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about writing. I'd never read King before because I'm just not a horror fan, but he can really write and he comes off as likable and funny in this part memoir/part writing guidebook.
In the first half of the book he talks about growing up and how he got into writing while the second half is devoted to practical advice on writing. I found myself highlighting passages that I wanted to remember, which I tend not to do.
I've read a couple other books more recently on writing - The War
...more
Bonnie
May 28, 2009 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting read. I was a little surprised at how much I got out of it.

King divides this book into three parts. The first explains how he came to be the writer he is today. The second deals specifically with writing. The final part is about the accident he had in 1999. That the accident happened when he was in the middle of writing this book explains why the tone changed half-way through.

I have read many books “On Writing” so although I got some good advice out of it, I wouldn’
...more
Stephen M
Sep 23, 2014 Stephen M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
King has written an excellent manual on how to write genre and popular fiction. While I don't mean this as a pejorative in any sense, I think it's important to keep in mind. Much of his advice is geared towards the fundamentals of writing, the beginning strokes, the proper technique, and the "how" of writing a "perfect" paragraph in fiction -- the atomic unit of prose (according to King).

These are the standards that, generally, I want to adhere to, and I would encourage 99% of all aspiring writ
...more
K
Mar 20, 2010 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the process of writing
Recommended to K by: Yitzchak
Dear Steve,

Now that I’ve read “On Writing,” I feel like I can call you Steve, (whoops, unnecessary comma) even though I grew up with the more impersonal “Stephen King” blaring at me from the covers of multiple bestsellers. Most of which I never read, because you’re really not my genre. That said, I hope I’ll be forgiven (whoops, passive voice) for shamelessly (whoops, adverb) singing your praises in this letter.

“On Writing” began with a partial memoir. You apologized for your inability to rememb
...more
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  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days
  • The Forest for the Trees
  • Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What!)
  • Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life
  • How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
  • Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
  • Becoming a Writer
  • How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
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Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, M ...more
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