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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  98,733 ratings  ·  7,476 reviews
"Long live the King," hailed "Entertainment Weekly" upon the publication of Stephen King's "On Writing." Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Perfection Learning (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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Riku Sayuj
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
Jason Koivu
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
Wil Wheaton
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.
Choco
Nov 01, 2011 Choco rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers
Shelves: you-must-read
I don't care who you are, what you are, but if you're willing to become a writer at some point in your life, then I think you should go briefly over this book. There is a section about his life before he became a writer, a section on writing, and a short section about when he got hit by a van.

The first and last section may not interest some people, but I really, really think EVERYONE needs to read what he has to say about writing.

This book shouldn't have taken me this long to finish, but it did
...more
Leah Heard
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
Jan 03, 2010 Becky rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Arah-Lynda
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
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
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
Nicola
May 01, 2007 Nicola rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Katharine (Ventureadlaxre)
Dec 22, 2008 Katharine (Ventureadlaxre) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Alison
Jul 24, 2008 Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Dustin
Aug 02, 2012 Dustin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
AJ Griffin
Jul 03, 2007 AJ Griffin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Bonnie
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
Joey
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
Tracey, librarian on strike
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
Jillian
Sep 20, 2008 Jillian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Stephen M
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
Michael Scott
This book binds together three very different parts: an autobiography, the part teaching the art of writing according to Stephen King, and a description of the author's current life and work (current means in the year 2000). The book reads easily, and, though helping with nothing in improving your writing skills, I enjoyed the auto-biography of Stephen King; from it, the author looks like a nice and down-to-earth person, which is contrary to the preconceived idea I had about big-earning horror-w ...more
Dyuti
First of all, even before I start the review of this book, I would like to congratulate Mr.Stephen King for writing such an AMAZING book. Its a MUST READ for all the aspiring authors out there!

King


He starts off the book with a memoir of his own childhood, and how he got drawn into the world of writing. This part of the book is quite an interesting read actually. I mean its always wonderful to know that such a successful writer like him had such humble roots... It kind of gives you the feeling that e
...more
Otherwyrld
I'm not sure that I've ever read any of Stephen King's novels, not from any kind of snobbery but simply because I just never got around to him. So why would I pick a partly autobiographical book on the art of writing for my first foray into his works? The Short answer is that this is a book that is often quoted as being one of the best books on writing available, and as a wannabe writer I felt that this would be a good book to try.

It is divided into three segments. The first is a fairly concise
...more
Navin
Jan 05, 2012 Navin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers
Beautiful. Knowledge should spread, and this book should sell. To be honest I have read no books by Mr. King other than this one. So my first apprehension was ‘if not knowing his style would take away anything from the experience of reading this book’. But then he is Mr. King, and put my prime worry to rest by putting in the most important element a book on writing can have – candid honesty – almost submissively, and this book is written from the lowest denominator.
Agreed that there are differe
...more
Jane Stewart
Entertaining and engaging. I enjoyed the whole thing.

Maybe half of this is Steve’s personal life and the other half how he writes and his opinions on good writing. Steve narrates. I enjoyed listening to him.

His personal life: A lot of writing when he was young. He met his wife in college. He taught high school English for about two years when his first novel Carrie was published. After that he had many bestsellers. He was an alcoholic and drug user for a while, both of which he gave up. He was s
...more
Greta is Erikasbuddy
I've been wanting to read this book for maybe a year now. .... Maybe shorter... but probably pretty close to a year.



What stopped me?



Well, I've never been much for book-learning and I kinda figured this book would intimidate me.



But it's by Stephen King! Why would he want to intimidate you?



Ok, it's not that he'd intimidate me... it's more like I felt my little simple mind wouldn't be able to understand it. I will be the first one to admit that I am in NO WAY The smartest tool in the shack or the d
...more
K
Mar 20, 2010 K rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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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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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