Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Rate this book
"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 childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
(back cover)

320 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Stephen King

2,530 books828k followers
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, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
144,835 (52%)
4 stars
92,395 (33%)
3 stars
31,154 (11%)
2 stars
6,008 (2%)
1 star
3,102 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 22,656 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 18, 2019
”Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy okay? Getting happy.”

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to over my lifetime who wanted to write a book. Most didn’t know what they wanted to write about, but some of them wanted to write their autobiography because their life had been so thrilling. I think my life has been reasonably boring, and it usually turns out that my life has been ten times more exciting than theirs. When situations like this happen to me, it is usually mildly amusing, but it can quickly turn to sneering when the person reveals to me that they don’t have time to read or don’t really like to read.

Don’t talk to me about writing a book if you don’t read.

Don’t talk to me about NOT having time to read.

What does Stephen King have to say about this?

”If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around those two things….”

Now, why would someone not want to read? Maybe it depends on when they were born. ”But TV came relatively late to the King household, and I’m glad. I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit.”

Now someone needs to wrap me in cellophane and stand me up in a museum because I’m probably one of the youngest members of that elite group. I grew up on a farm in the middle of bumfrilling Kansas, where a twenty foot antenna could only pull in three TV channels and one of those channels rolled most of the time. TV had no real impact on my life until I left home at the age of 18 and moved to Phoenix.

Thank Zeus!!

Now I have young, wannabe writers writing me from all over the world, sending me links to “hilarious” YouTube videos, or they talk to me about binging all weekend on a Netflix show. They are completely enamored with spoon fed entertainment, and what they find funny is to me like paddling around in the kiddy pool of humor in the book world.

I wonder why I’m so grumpy.

”A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy---’I’ll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand’---but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt that way. Whenever I read a wonderful book like The Great Gatsby or meet a character like Atticus Finch, I fall on my bed and stare at the ceiling and think why am I harboring any thoughts that I can write a novel? My problem, of course, is that I don’t want to just write a novel. I want to write a fantastic novel. I don’t want to just entertain people; I want them to feel the socks ripped off their feet and have them floating around in the air around their head when they read my novel.

Stephen King will go into a time when he was struggling with alcohol and using drugs, or should I say abusing drugs. He will tell you all about the accident that nearly ended his life, which happened while he was writing this book. He will talk about trials and tribulations. He will recommend books. There is a whole list of modern books in the back of this book that impressed the hell out of him and impacted his writing. The point is, of course, that even though he is probably the most famous writer on the planet, he is still learning, still enjoying reading, and still writing every day.

I take a book everywhere I go. I take a book with me to work every day and read a page or two while my computer is booting up. I have a book with me all the time because I never know when I will be sitting in road work or waiting on a doctor or gleefully reading, in the glow of my flashlight beam on the pages of my book, waiting for the power to come back on at work.

I live to read. I live to write. I fornicate somewhere in the middle.

This has been one of the most inspiring books about writing I’ve ever read. King talked about examples of the work ethics of writers, but the one that resonated with me the most was Anthony Trollope. He used to write, EXACTLY, for two and half hours every day before going to the post office. If his writing time was up, he would stop in the middle of a sentence and head to work. If he finished a novel fifteen minutes before his time was up, he wrote THE END and started immediately into his next novel. It brought tears to my eyes because that is what it means to be a writer...dedication to the craft.

If you want to get rich, go be a frilling stock broker. If you want to write, then turn the squawk box off and search for those buried fossils in the words swimming around in your head. King calls good ideas fossils. For me writing is more like when Michelangelo used to lay his head on a block of marble and listened to the voices in the stone that wanted to be freed. All you have to do is chisel those characters free, and give them life.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
December 16, 2015
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 book about how to write. Sure, he churns out pulpy horror stories that are proudly displayed in airport bookstores, but the man knows how to write a good story, and he's probably one of the most well-known, non-dead American authors in the world. So he must be doing something right.

I'm not the biggest fan of King's books, but I really enjoyed On Writing. He talks about writing frankly and practically, mixing tried-and-true pieces of advice (fear the adverb, never write "replied/remarked/muttered/yelled etc" when you can write "said", and don't be afraid to kill off your favorite character) with anecdotes about how some of his books came about. I especially liked the story behind Carrie: King was working as a janitor at a high school, and one night he was cleaning the girls' locker room. He asked the other janitor what that little metal dispenser box on the wall was, and the other man replied that it was for "pussy pluggers." At the same time, King had been reading about how psychic abilities often manifest in girls just beginning to go through puberty. He combined the two ideas and wrote out a couple pages that would turn into the opening of Carrie. (if you haven't read it you should.) Many thanks to King's wife, who rescued the pages from the wastebasket after King first decided that the idea was stupid and threw them away.

So, in conclusion: even if you aren't a fan of Stephen King's work, he has some very good advice about writing and storytelling, plus some good stories of his own. Sure, you can call him a sellout. But I like him.

Also, he once said in an interview that Stephenie Meyer "can't write worth a darn." You stay classy, Mr. King.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
November 19, 2017
There's this magic thing that happens sometimes: I can't wait to reread a book I haven't even finished yet. It's a rare feeling, but one that happens whenever I'm in the midst of a new favourite book. I'm reading these amazing scenes, freaking out over fantastic passages, and already looking forward to the second time I'll read them, when they'll be even clearer and start to feel familiar.

It's a rare occurrence, it only happens a few times a year, but it happened with On Writing. The moment it started I knew I would be flipping through it for the rest of my life. It's that moment where you find a new favourite book.

If you care about writing at all, if you want to be a writer or are fascinated by the world of writing, I absolutely recommend this gem.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,378 reviews12k followers
July 17, 2022

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Superb, absolutely superb. I've listened to Stephen King read his audio book three times. I can't recommend highly enough.

Since I'm on the cusp of posting 1,000 reviews here on Goodreads, I'd like to share my own thoughts on writing book reviews and link my reflections with Stephen King's wisdom on the craft of writing.

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

I recall back when I was in my 20s and 30s, reading book reviews in the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer and thinking, oh, if I only had the opportunity to write book reviews. I so much love book reviews! I was truly swept away by well-crafted book reviews.

Of course, with Amazon and now Goodreads, all that has changed. Eight years ago I seized the opportunity to write online book reviews. I instantly fell in love with writing book reviews and made the commitment back then to post two book reviews a week. Anyway, I honed the craft of writing book reviews by writing and multiple rewrites until I took great joy in reading my own reviews. This to say, Stephen King is so right here - work away until your writing gives YOU joy to read. That way, your writing stands a better chance of giving pleasure to others.

“I'm a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, most fiction. I don't read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read”

The key here is LOVE reading books. Like Stephen, I'm a slow reader but as a dedicated book reviewer I read lots of books every year. And like Stephen, I enjoy listening to audio books.

Fortunately, I have two abilities that help greatly as a book reviewer: 1) I can easily become absorbed in a book, especially a novel, really absorbed, as if I'm living heart and mind in the unfolding story, and 2) both my short-term and long-term memory are excellent for fiction. I can remember the details of the novels I've read 50 years ago as if I read them yesterday, an ability that comes in mighty handy when writing reviews.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

So true, Stephen! I so much look forward to writing when I wake up in the morning (understatement). And I've built up my endurance to the point where I have no problem writing 2 or 3 or 4 or even 5 or 6 hours at a time. For me, it's not a job grinding it out but rather a continual joy. I echo the great Argentinian author Fernando Sorrentino who said he would never let writing become a job. Worth repeating: never let your writing sink to the level of becoming a job.

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Spot-on, sir! The key is to take delight in revisiting your writing again and again, reading it aloud to make sure the rhythms are smooth not clunky (the ear has it all over the eye when it comes to judging rhythm).

When I first began writing book reviews, here's what I did: I wrote out great book reviews written by such authors as John Updike, Michiko Kakutani and James Wood, wrote them out word for word just to get the feel for what it's like to write a great review. I also used a digital device to record their reviews and I listened while taking my walks. After a few months, I recorded my own book reviews, alternating with the great writers' reviews until I was satisfied with my writing - my rhythm, vocabulary, use of examples and metaphor.

“Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

For a book reviewer, this means to be keenly aware of the book you are reading. Underline passages as you read, take notes, read some of the book aloud to get a deeper feel for the author's voice, reread pages or chapters or sections you feel are particularly important so as not to miss the subtleties of character, the nuances of atmosphere along with the author's overall vision.

“If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered.”

If others think you a bookworm or egghead or oddball or goofball (I've frequently been judged all of these), that's their issue not yours. If possible, avoid people who discourage you from reading and/or writing. Cultivate solitude, become your own best friend, make books your friends, make authors your friends, let the creative act of reading and writing become a shining polestar in your life.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

I think Stephen is thinking of those who want to write a short story or, most particularly, those who set out or are in the process of writing a novel. For me, there are no scary moments in the process of writing book reviews - not at the start, not at the end nor anything in between. So saying, I'll post this review.
Profile Image for Wil Wheaton.
Author 89 books204k followers
January 2, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Josu Diamond.
Author 8 books33.2k followers
July 26, 2020
Un libro imprescincible para cualquier escritor.

No soy muy fan de libros tipo 'autoayuda', porque siento que su tono es condescendiente. No soy fan, en general, de gente que se cree por encima de ti y decide prestar su valioso tiempo en enseñarte lo que sabe, pero dejándote claro que su éxito es inalcanzable. Tenía miedo de que Mientras escribo fuera a ser así, y no lo ha sido para nada.

Stephen King es uno de los autores más prolíficos y mejor valorados de la era contemporánea. La gente le encasilla en el terror, pero ha escrito desde thrillers a novelas policíacas, ciencia ficción y fantasía. Es, como unos amigos míos decían hace muchos años, el Maestro del Ser Humano. Tiene un don para los diálogos, para conectar con el lector, para crear personajes y sobre todo, para hacerte sentir algo, sea bueno o malo.


En Mientras escribo vamos a encontrarnos un libro diferente a todo lo que hayas leído. No es una guía, ni un libro de estilo, ni una biografía, ni un libro inspiracional. Es todo eso junto, mezclado, y el batiburrillo hace que sea increíble. Pero vaya, ¿qué podíamos esperar del señor King? Tampoco es un libro para todo el mundo, como él mismo dice claramente en varias ocasiones. Es un libro para escritores: para aquellos que ya hayan escrito, o los que quieran empezar, o los que sientan que no lo necesitas. Es un libro para cualquier persona que sienta fluir el poder de las palabras en sus venas.

El estilo de King es, como siempre, directo. No escatima en palabrotas o en decirte las cosas a la cara. Si siente que un autor o un concepto es una chorrada o una estupidez, te lo va a decir. Y te va a explicar por qué. Y, lo mejor de todo, es que al final le vas a terminar dando la razón. En concreto, respecto a los capítulos donde habla de las 'herramientas' de escribir, vas a quedarte a cuadros con sus explicaciones. Además, una de las cosas que me gusta es que no es solo su experiencia, sino que analiza los textos de otras personas, pone ejemplos e incluso cita libros de teoría del lenguaje para que veas que no está loco.

Sin duda alguna el principio puede resultar confuso. ¿Por qué Stephen King me está contando su infancia? ¿Qué me importa que haya tenido problemas en el oído o que casi muera en un accidente? Pues, querides amigues, sin esa parte este libro no tendría sentido. No solo te deja ver que ser escritor es casi de nacimiento, que desde niño sintió la necesidad de absorber historias y de también crearlas, sino cómo la escritura le salvó y cómo ser escritor no es un camino de rosas. Su historia de vida es de estas que podrías escuchar durante horas, no solo por interesante, sino por significativa.


He aprendido muchísimo con este libro. Había cosas que ya conocía de él (como que es muy propenso a ser simple, directo, en sus libros, porque cree que hay cosas más importantes que hacer que poner adverbios o palabras rimbombantes), pero no conocía su justificación al completo. Gracias a este libro tan extraño he aprendido a apreciar cosas que jamás me había parado a pensar, pero sobre todo me ha dado ideas y un chute de energía brutal. Era el libro que necesitaba en este momento.

Mientras escribo es un libro inteligente que, sin pausa, y mezclando churros con meninas consigue enseñarte y mejorarte como escritor sin que te des cuenta. Eso sí: es un libro que dice las cosas como son. Al fin y al cabo, es Stephen King. (Y si sois fans de él, cuenta secretos muy interesantes sobre algunas de sus novelas más famosas, así como su forma de trabajar. Concretamente habla bastante de Carrie, Misery, El resplandor, El misterio de Salem's Lot y algunos de sus relatos más famosos en el momento de escritura del libro.)
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
February 4, 2020
So it's become very clear to me now that very few writers actually write about the craft. The only Latin American writer to do so? Mario Vargas Llosa (who took several years off of his busy novel-writing to write about his now-ex-pal Gabriel Garcia Marquez). But I suddenly forgot who the King was (no, I mean literally: I've not read him in years! High school being the prime time for Stephen King, & all): the guy has useful insight, no shit, because he is not only prolific & uber-successful (he got $400,000 for his first novel “Carrie”!), but because, let’s all admit it, he’s pretty damn good. Maybe prose is not the forte per se, but story sure is (think of how many times he has tapped the vein of the zeitgeist to produce visceral, emblematic and modern monsters). It's interesting to compare this with the only other non-fiction I’ve read of late, “The Perpetual Orgy” & “Letters to a Young Novelist” by the already mentioned Peruvian auteur. They both (Vargas Llosa and King) tell us to seriously commit to writing, to write, write, write, write, WRITE, but, even more splendidly, they endorse heavy reading (duh!). I love Stephen King quotes, like this little morsel of truth: “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” Take that, non-reading punks verging-perilously-close-to-ignoramuses! !

Let me recall some of the stuff I’ve learned (the rest has been absorbed as if by osmosis): 1) rewrite at least two times once the novel has been completed, 2) write & read for at least 5 hours every single day, 3) IMPORTANT: look for an editor (they are eager for new talent, King says), 4) VERY IMPORTANT: begin a serious submitting process (L. Williford has always emphasized the importance of this!), 5) write solely to your IR (Ideal Reader)… it's all super helpful. Perhaps the “Toolbox” section is its weakest part (inversely, MVL’s bag of tricks is on glorious display in “Letters” [though he never mentions the publishing process like King does])… going over rudimentary English is, I am forced to admit, quite lame. But King does seem enthusiastic throughout as only the best teachers are in the classroom—his tone is one of (slight) optimism for the developing novelist. He cheers you on (THE Stephen King!) !!! Bottom line: INVALUABLE stuff, a few (awesome for the fans) confessional tidbits, & some golly-good pointers.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,115 followers
December 17, 2007
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 just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right - as right as you can, anyway - it belongs to anyone who wants to read it."

"...The writer's original perception of a character or characters may be erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position."

"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly."

"The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.... Writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction."

"Once I start work on a project, I don't stop and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind - they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale's narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death."

"If I have to tell you, I lose. If, on the other hand, I can show you a silent, dirty-haired woman who compulsively gobbles cake and candy, then have you draw the conclusion that Annie is in the depressive part of a manic-depressive cycle, I win. And if I am able, even briefly, to give you a Wilkes'-eye-view of the world - if I can make you understand her madness - then perhaps I can make her someone you sympathize with or even identify with. The result? She's more frightening than ever, because she's close to real."

"What you should probably be doing is writing as fast as the Gingerbread Man runs, getting that first draft down on paper while the shape of the fossil is still bright and clear in your mind."

"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better."

"Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up."

"Reading is the creative center of a writer's life."
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,447 followers
September 6, 2023
Nu-mi plac romanele lui Stephen King (n. 21 septembrie 1947). Cred că nici lui nu-i plac foarte tare. I-au adus avere, notorietate, și asta e tot ceea ce contează pînă la urmă (măcar pentru el).

Nu pot să neg însă că este un prozator profesionist, cum nu sînt prea mulți în spațiul moldo-vlah. Sfaturile lui pot fi de mare folos celor care ar dori să se „facă” scriitori (și să cîștige bani mulți, fără număr, bani cu nemiluita...), deși scrisul nu este meseria cea mai bănoasă din lume, e mai bine să lansezi sateliți pe orbită ca Elon Musk și să debitezi tîmpenii. Foarte puțini prozatori ajung la veniturile lui King.

În pofida rîndurilor de mai sus, observațiile prozatorului american sînt mereu utile și rezonabile. Nu-i simplu să fii scriitor, e o meserie horror, credeți-mă, dar poți învăța să potrivești cuvintele prin reflecție și printr-un exercițiu perseverent. Asta înseamnă să stai la masa de scris cel puțin 5 ore pe zi. Philip Roth stătea 8. Să reflectăm, deci, la îndemnurile lui King:

1. „Dacă vreţi să fiţi scriitori, trebuie, mai presus de toate, să faceţi două lucruri: citiţi mult şi scrieţi mult. Nu cunosc nici un mod de a ocoli aceste două lucruri, nici o scurtătură. Eu sînt un cititor lent, dar reuşesc de obicei să parcurg şaptezeci sau optzeci de cărţi pe an, majoritatea romane. Nu citesc cu gîndul de-a învăţa meserie; citesc pentru că-mi place să citesc”.

2. Un exemplu ilustru de muncitor: „Anthony Trollope scria romane urieşeşti şi le scotea pe bandă cu o surprinzătoare regularitate. Era funcţionar la Departamentul Poştal Britanic (cutiile poştale roşii răspîndite în toată Marea Britanie au fost invenţia lui Anthony Trollope); scria vreme de două ore şi jumătate în fiecare dimineaţă înainte să plece la serviciu. Orarul acesta era bătut în cuie. Dacă se afla la mijlocul unei propoziţii cînd expirau cele două ore şi jumătate, lăsa propoziţia neterminată pînă dimineaţa următoare. Iar dacă se întîmpla să-şi termine una dintre cărţile cu gabarit depăşit, a cîte şase sute de pagini fiecare, şi-i mai rămîneau cincisprezece minute din acea sesiune, scria «Sfîrşit», punea manuscrisul deoparte şi începea lucrul la următoarea carte”.

3. Exemplul personal: „Programul meu e în linii mari foarte clar. Dimineţile sînt pentru lucrurile noi - textul pe care-l compun. După-amiezile sînt pentru odihnă şi scrisori. Serile sînt pentru citit, familie, meciuri Red Sox la televizor şi toate reviziile care nu suportă amînare. În principal, dimineţile sînt cele rezervate scrisului. Odată ce încep să lucrez la un proiect, nu mă opresc şi nu scad ritmul decît dacă sînt absolut nevoit s-o fac”.

În sfîrșit, despre plăcerea de a scrie:

4. „Adevărul e că, atunci cînd muncesc, scriu zi de zi, obsedat irecuperabil de muncă... Asta înseamnă şi de Crăciun, și de sărbătoarea naţională, şi de ziua mea de naştere (la vîrsta mea, oricum încerci să ignori afurisita aia de aniversare). Iar cînd nu scriu, nu muncesc deloc, deşi în aceste perioade de inactivitate totală mă simt de obicei în derivă şi am probleme cu somnul. Pentru mine, a nu munci e adevărata muncă. Cînd scriu, totul e un joc şi pînă şi cele mai rele trei ore pe care le-am petrecut vreodată la masa de scris tot mi-au oferit o plăcere suficient de mare”.

P. S. Averea lui Stephen King se ridică la aproximativ 500 de milioane de dolari. În topul celor mai bogați scriitori, se situează pe locul 5. În virf se află, nu mai trebuie s-o spun, J.K. Rowling cu peste un miliard de dolari. Rar, mult prea rar, scrisul aduce bani. Și nu neapărat sciitorilor valoroși.

P. P. S. Alte cărți despre meșteșugul scrisului:
● Ray Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing, Santa Barbara: Joshua Odell, 1996, 176p.
● Umberto Eco, Cum se face o teză de licenţă: disciplinele umaniste, traducere de George Popescu, Iaşi: Polirom, 2014, 264p.
● Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, New York: Anchor Books, 2007, 25p. Traducere în limba română: Cum înveţi să scrii ficţiune pas cu pas. Sugestii despre scris şi viaţă, traducere de Ileana Ioniță-Iancu, Pitești: Paralela 45, 2013, 184p.
● Mario Vargas Llosa, Scrisori către un tînăr romancier, traducere de Mihai Cantuniari, București: Humanitas, 2010, 144p.
● Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman, Cum să NU scrii un roman: Arta greșelilor, traducere de Bogdan-Alexandru Stănescu, București: Baroque Books & Arts, 2014, 310p.
● Haruki Murakami, Meseria de romancier, traducere de Andreea Sion, Editura Polirom, 2016, 288p.
● Tony Rossiter, Cum să scrii ca un autor de bestseller, București, Didactica Publishing House, 2020, 320p.
● William Zinsser, Cum să scriem bine: Ghidul clasic pentru scriitorii de nonficţiune, traducere de Amalia Mărăşescu, Piteşti: Paralela 45, 2013, 224p.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,178 followers
November 29, 2016

Like the curate’s egg, this is good in parts. I can see why writers, and budding writers find this book inspirational, and fans of his oeuvre will enjoy learning how certain stories came to be. But it’s several very different books and booklets, within a single set of covers - curious that a book about writing doesn't seem to know what sort of a book it is.

In one of the three forewords, King says “Most books about writing are filled with bullshit”. I found a fair bit here, too. But I also found good things, including a passionate passage about books being a sort of telepathy, culminating with the delicious: “Books are a uniquely portable magic.

This book isn’t about how to write in general, it’s about how to write like Stephen King, and for that, it may be excellent.

1. C.V. 4* (memoir, 118 pages, or 33% of the book)

This is a charming scattering of snapshots of King’s childhood, and snippets of adulthood and advice; the CV of how one writer was formed. I enjoyed a peek into ordinary 1950s small-town USA. He points out that he is one of "the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit". (He was 11 when the family got their first TV.)

He missed most of first grade because of ear-related health problems, so retreated into comic books and writing stories in a similar vein. His mother always encouraged him, and the importance of encouragement is the strongest message of the book. Conversely, a teacher criticised him for wasting his talent writing junk, and King remained ashamed of what he wrote until his forties. (The “junk” was a novelisation of the film of The Pit and the Pendulum, which he’d been selling at school – unaware that it was originally a short story by Poe!)

His wife, Tabitha, also gets much credit: her belief in his ability and her consequent encouragement, even when they could barely pay the bills. They have much in common, but “What ties us most strongly are the words, the language, and the work of our lives.

The other key message is that there is no repository of great story ideas. They come from nowhere. The writer has to spot, recognise, and polish them, and King gives examples of how he came upon the seeds of many of his stories.

King points out that even the author’s perception of his characters may be wrong (I don’t disagree, and it may be related to his not realising that he was writing about himself when he penned Jack, in The Shining). But in a foreword, he makes a more extreme generalisation, “The editor is always right”. An interesting case study is to compare Raymond Carver’s short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, in their originally published and heavily edited form with his originals, now published under the title Beginners. Sometimes I think the editor was right, but in several cases, I prefer Carver’s version. I’ve explored the differences a little in my reviews: HERE and HERE, respectively.

2. Toolbox 1* (grammar etc, 34 pages)

Writing is seduction.” Not necessarily. Reading this short section, the only thing that prevented me from throwing the book across the room was that it was borrowed from a friend. It does what most prescriptive guides do: conflates stylistic preference with grammatical rules, and makes sweeping generalisations (such as “the best form of dialogue attribution is ‘said’.”), largely ignoring the paramount importance of context and audience. It’s easy to teach and test rules, but serious writers need to cultivate an intuitive feel for language in a variety of styles, rather than being bogged down analysing parts of speech.

King taught grammar, but gives examples of Tom Swifties that aren't, and keeps talking about the "passive tense", though later correctly says "passive voice". He decries it, using ludicrous, unidiomatic examples (“My first kiss will always be recalled by me”). He decries adverbs by using a convoluted passive (they “seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind”) and an adverb (saying writers use them when not expressing themselves “clearly”), and says both passives and adverbs are the resort of "timid writers". He claims, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” One is OK, but they’re like dandelions: prone to multiply. In section 3, he berates pronouns too, using a pronoun “I hate and mistrust pronouns, every one of them as slippery as a fly-by-night personal-injury lawyer””. Why?

Strunk and White’s* (in)famous rule 17, “Omit needless words”, is lauded. It’s hard to disagree with, but it’s no help with discerning which words might be needless.

King says this section is short because readers probably know enough grammar already, but he then agrees with Strunk and White, that if readers don’t, “It’s too late”. So much for encouraging timid writers. And yet many find this book helpful. I’m pleased for them, but a little surprised.

There are some good points. He stresses the importance of an extensive vocabulary, and says it should be acquired through reading widely, rather than conscious effort. He describes paragraphs as “maps of intent” and “the basic unit of writing” (rather than sentences). And there is a nod to context, negating much of what precedes it, “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes.” Amen to that.

3. On Writing 3* (how he writes, 143 pages, or 40%)

And suddenly it’s back to memoir-ish, but with focus on the process of writing, and a smattering of prescriptive absolutes and empty homilies alongside fascinating insights and ideas. King promises “Everything I know about how to write good fiction.”, along with encouragement, but with the caveat that you can’t make a bad writer a competent one, or a good writer great, but you can make a competent writer good, as long as they master the basics in the previous section: vocabulary, grammar, and style.

King stresses the importance and joy of reading, in all and any situations, developing “an ease and intimacy with the process of writing.

But for writing itself, he says you need good health (though poor health was what got him started, and he was successful when a heavy-drinking alcoholic), a stable relationship (don’t many great writers emerge from the opposite?), strict routine, and your own space (no distractions, and a door to close). “Put your desk in the corner… Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way round.

Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme… Starting with the questions and thematic concerns is a recipe for bad fiction.
The ideas about story and plot were fascinating and liberating - in stark contrast with the straitjacket of the previous section. You need a concrete goal, but “Don’t wait for the muse” and “ Write what you know”.

He lists only three components of a story: narrative, description, and dialogue. Don’t worry about plot because our lives are plotless. “Stories are found things, like fossils” and the writer has to give them somewhere to grow (fossils… growing?), thus “My books tend to be based on situation rather than story… The situation comes first… The characters… come next”. Then there’s narration, and he lets the characters figure things out – not always as he expected.

Ultimately, “The story should always be the boss”. The story, not the plot. “Plot is… the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.” And “There’s a huge difference between story and plot. Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty and best kept under house arrest.” Huh? Fortunately, Bryce came to the rescue in the second comment on her review here:
"Plot is a series of events. But story is about the motivations behind those events."
Her example is that plot is "The king died and then the queen died."
The story is "The king died and then the queen died of grief."

When you’ve finished the first draft (which you should never show anyone else for comment), you have to step back, to see the wood for the trees, and figure out what the book is about. Work on a second draft, then take a break and let someone else review that.

Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story”, but you must beware of over-describing: “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” That sounds wise and wonderful, but I’m unsure how to apply it. Still less, “The use of simile and other figurative language is one of the chief delights of fiction”, when you’re supposed to be hunting down adverbs, pronouns and other allegedly needless words.

It’s not about the setting… it’s always about the story.” Absolutely always? I think not. So many of my favourite works of fiction are about the setting that I have shelves called Landscape Protagonist and Sea, Islands, Coast.

One of the cardinal rules of good fiction is never to tell us a thing if you can show us.” Never? Again, it’s the absolutism I object to.

And then… relax: “Try any goddam thing you like… If it works, fine. If it doesn’t toss it. Toss it even if you love it.” Hooray.

4. On Living 3* (surviving a life-threatening accident, 22 pages)

This is a moving addition to recent editions (and briefer versions have been published separately). King writes of when he was out walking in 1999 and was hit by a driver who could have been from one of his books. It recounts his serious injuries, multiple operations, and slow recovery. “Writing didn’t save my live… [but] it makes my life a brighter more pleasant place.

5. And Furthermore 3* (annotated example of first and second drafts)

This has a very short story that King invites readers to edit. It is followed by an annotated version, with explanations of the suggestions. Most of them are cuts (back to “Omit needless words”). King reckons editing should trim at least 10%. The other key thing is follow-through, “If there’s a gun on the mantel in Act I, it must go off in Act III”, otherwise it will be either pointless or a deus ex machina. See Checkov’s Gun.

6. Booklists 3* (books to read, mostly fiction)

There are two fiction booklists, mostly novels, but a few short story collections. It’s a varied mix of classics and modern, highbrow and less so: King’s first/main list


I tried to read this with an open mind. I was bored by the only other King I've read (The Shining, my review HERE), and I generally abhor the narrow prescriptivism of "How to write" guides. Most of it defied my fears – except for the grammar stylistic advice. But what do I know? I’m not a published author, let alone one as successful as Stephen King.

*For a strident critique of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (beloved of many US students and largely unknown in the UK), see Prof Geoff Pullum on Elements of Style.

Image source for classic Punch cartoon, “The Curate’s egg”:

Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
499 reviews855 followers
January 9, 2018
January 6, 2018 review

I'm kicking off my fifth year on Goodreads with a re-read of the best book about writing that I've read to date. I've considered that On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft--Stephen King's contribution to the crowded field of How To Write a Novel, published in 2000--might hold this slot due to King being one of my favorite living authors. Ball players can tune out a coach who never made it in the pros quicker than a guy who did and was a superstar to boot, and I'm certainly more likely to heed the advice of a guru who didn't attain his divinity by mysterious means. The author of The Shining certainly had my attention.

King begins his instruction by doing something I wish my teachers did on the first day of class; he tells us about himself. Raised by a single mother in Maine in the 1950s and '60s, King recounts his childhood, his earliest discoveries in fiction, his first forays into writing and publishing, his breakthrough debut novel Carrie some ten years later in 1974 and his near collapse from alcohol and drugs. The writing advice kicks in, covering vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style and much more. This was the book King was chipping away at in June 1999 when he was struck by a negligent driver while on an afternoon walk, and this life changing experience is recounted as well.

Even when King isn't dispensing writing advice--and when he does, it's helpful to anyone from students writing a paper to writers with dreams of being the next King of Horror--simply reading his prose is a motivation and a delight. Holder of a Bachelor's of Arts in English from the University of Maine at Orono, King's manner or style has always reminded me of a character in a King novel, an English instructor perhaps, but more likely a guy who works at the hardware or auto parts store in town and who loves: 1) talking to people, and 2) helping people by sharing his expertise. King's forte is storytelling, with a minor in popular culture.

-- Imitation preceded creation; I would copy Combat Casey comics word for word in my Blue Horse tablet, sometimes adding my own descriptions where they seemed appropriate. "They were camped in a big dratty farmhouse room," I might write; it was another year or two before I discovered that drat and draft were different words. During the same period I remember believing that details were dentals and that a bitch was an extremely tall woman. A son of a bitch was apt to be a basketball player. When you're six, most of your Bingo balls are still floating around in the draw-tank.

-- I was born in 1947 and we didn't get our first television until 1958. The first thing I remember watching on it was Robot Monster, a film in which a guy dressed in an ape-suit with a goldfish bowl on his head--Ro-Man, he was called--ran around trying to kill the last survivors of a nuclear war. I felt this was art of quite a high nature. But TV came relatively late to the King household, and I'm glad. I am, when you stop to think about it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bullshit. This might not be important.

-- "What I don't understand, Stevie," she said, "is why you'd write junk like this in the first place. You're talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?" She had rolled up a copy of V.I.B. #1 and was brandishing it at me the way a person might brandish a rolled-up newspaper at a dog that has piddled on the rug. She waited for me to answer--to her credit, the question was not entirely rhetorical--but I had no answer to give. I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since--too many, I think--being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.

-- I wasn't having much success with my own writing, either. Horror, science fiction, and crime stories in the men's magazines were being replaced by increasingly graphic tales of sex. That was part of the trouble, but not all of it. The bigger deal was that, for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching. I liked my coworkers and loved the kids--even the Beavis and Butt-Head types in Living with English could be interesting--but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I'd spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain. If I ever came close to despairing about my future as a writer, it was then.

-- I had written three other novels before Carrie--Rage, The Long Walk, and The Running Man were later published. But none of them taught me the things I learned from Carrie White. The most important is that the writer's original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader's. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.

-- Put vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don't make any conscious effort to improve it. One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind if it is appropriate and colorful.

-- Two pages of the passive voice--just about any business document ever written, in other words, not to mention reams of bad fiction--make me want to scream. It's weak, it's circuitous, and it's frequently torturous, as well. How about this: My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna began. Oh, man--who farted, right? A simpler way to express this idea--sweeter and more forceful, as well--might be this: My romance with Shayna began with our first kiss. I'll never forget it. I'm not in love with this because it uses with twice in four words, but at least we're out of that awful passive voice.

-- The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said. If you want to see this put stringently into practice, I urge you to read or reread a novel by Larry McMurtry, the Shane of dialogue attribution. That looks damned snide on the page, but I'm speaking with complete sincerity. McMurtry has allowed few adverbial dandelions to grow on his lawn. He believes in he-said/she-said even in moments of emotional crisis (and in Larry McMurtry novels there are a lot of those.) Go and do thou likewise.

-- I am approaching the heart of this book with two theses, both simple. The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments. The second is 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.

-- Smith wasn't looking at the road on the afternoon our lives came together because his rottweiler had jumped from the very rear of his van into the back-seat area, where there was an Igloo cooler with some meat stored inside. The rottweiler's name is Bullet (Smith has another rottweiler at home; that one is named Pistol). Bullet started to nose at the lid of the cooler. Smith turned around and tried to push Bullet away. He was still looking at Bullet and pushing his head away from the cooler when he came over the top of the knoll; still looking and pushing when he struck me. Smith told friends later that he thought he'd hit "a small deer" until he noticed my bloody spectacles lying on the front seat of his van. They were knocked from my face when I tried to get out of Smith's way. The frames were bent and twisted, but the lenses were unbroken. They are the lenses I'm wearing now, as I write this.

I could keep going and going with excerpts, which with only a few of the digressions that turned It into a 444,414 word kiddie high chair and Under the Dome into a 334,074 word boat anchor, are just by their free flowing honesty inspirational to anyone who seeks to communicate thought to print. Instead, I think I'll dust off my half-finished manuscript and channel the spirit of Carrie White to get to writing.

January 8, 2014 review

It's not every day you can buy two great books for the price of one, but with On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, readers are treated to both an engaging autobiography of one of the 20th century's most prolific novelists, and his illuminative thoughts on the craft of writing.

Stephen King had been publishing for more than 25 years when this memoir arrived in 2000, and while he's probably been asked "Where do you get your ideas?" or "How do I become a novelist?" enough times over to want to either strangle someone or answer that a book, I love how balanced and unassuming his approach was in going about the latter.

Rather than document the genesis of every novel he ever wrote as if they were masterpieces (most are far from it, including Cujo, which King admits he can't remember writing through the cocaine and beer), or offer novelists a definitive instruction manual on how to become a bestselling author like him, King dabs his pen in each of those inkwells with welcome doses of humility and insight.

King writes about his youth -- watching his grandfather tote a giant tool box outside for the seemingly mundane task of repairing a screen door, or writing Carrie in the laundry room of the trailer he shared with his wife -- as well as his near death in 1999, when the author is struck by a distracted driver.

My greatest takeaway from the sections of the book which deal with craft is King's revelation that for him, writing feels less like dreaming up stories and more like paleontology, pulling a fossil out of the ground. A story is buried somewhere. King touches on the tools a writer can use to dig it up.

Whether you're a writer, or a fan of King's, or both, this memoir is like opening up a safety deposit box you've been given the key to and finding rich stuff (to borrow an expression from The Goonies) inside.
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,104 followers
September 11, 2013
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 as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

Here is are a few excerpts from the book that might inspire you to take my advice -

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. It’s what I do at night, kicked back in my blue chair. Similarly, I don’t read fiction to study the art of fiction, but simply because I like stories. Yet there is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.

It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but “didn’t have time to read,” I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner.

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows.
Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening(or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic. That goes for reading and writing as well as for playing a musical instrument, hitting a baseball, or running the four-forty. The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate—four to six hours a day, every day—will not seem strenuous if you really enjoy doing these things and have an aptitude for them; in fact, you may be following such a program already.

If you feel you need permission to do all the reading and writing your little heart desires, however, consider it hereby granted by yours truly.

I love this book because it agrees with all my preconceptions. Feels nice to be on the right track. It is also quite inspiring when it comes to kicking you into putting on your writing cap.

I couldn't resist putting in this anecdote about James Joyce as well:

One of my favorite stories on the subject—probably more myth than truth—concerns James Joyce. According to the story, a friend came to visit him one day and found the great man sprawled across his writing desk in a posture of utter despair.

“James, what’s wrong?” the friend asked. “Is it the work?”

Joyce indicated assent without even raising his head to look at the friend. Of course it was the work; isn’t it always?

“How many words did you get today?” the friend pursued.

Joyce (still in despair, still sprawled facedown on his desk):


“Seven? But James . . . that’s good, at least for you!”

“Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up. “I suppose it is . . . but I don’t know what order they go in!”

Of course, the book is not intended just as a writing manual. Even if you never intend to write, the memoir is a wonderful graphic tale on King's life and like all his stories, it does not lack in imagination or entertainment.

Meanwhile, let me get down to some actual writing...
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book936 followers
May 19, 2020
Stephen King — along with Jo Rowling and a handful other novelists —, is one of the most successful writers of our time (at least in commercially), with bestsellers such as The Shining, It or Misery. One might wonder if there is some sort of magic formula he is using to write his books. The secret, of course, is that there is no secret. This book, however, is an invitation behind the scenes of the author's work and career and a masterclass for aspiring writers.

The firsts section is about King's childhood and early years as a writer of short stories when he used to jab rejection letters on a spike in his bedroom and worked at a laundry shop to earn a living. These were the years before his first big success, Carrie. King also speaks to his early alcohol addiction and how he overcame it.

He then goes on to give precise advice and opinions on several topics that shed light on his fiction writing: discipline, vocabulary, grammar, narration, description, dialogue, character, symbolism, theme, pace, revisions, publishing, and so forth. The book closes with the story of the accident he suffered while going for a stroll around his house, where he narrowly escaped death, and how writing helped him recover.

All said and done, while reading this book, the secret of Stephen King's success is palpable: his prose is crystal clear and totally without affectation or condescension. Even when he talks about the technical stuff of how to compose a sentence or a paragraph, King is often funny, smart, and always comes across as honest, sensible, and approachable. And (it's a foregone conclusion) he has a knack for telling stories — his own in this case —, in ways that make them straightforward, relatable, and moving.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
October 2, 2018
Stephen King shares some stories of his past and some writing tips.

This was either my fourth or fifth time reading this. I got it for Christmas around the turn of the century and I've buzz-sawed through it a few times before. The first time, I was just cutting my writing teeth. Now, with seven or eight first drafts of novels lying around, I came to the book with a completely different perspective.

Most books about writing, as I've said before, are by people I've never heard of, and are akin to a psychic handing out lottery numbers. If he or she can predict that, why aren't they using the lottery numbers for themselves? Since Stephen King is the big kahuna, I figure he could teach me a few things.

The biography chapters were my favorite the first time around and were still the most fun to read. I had vague recollections of these chapters, such as little Stevie needing fluid drained from his ears, and King's substance abuse. As a man who's skated close to the substance abuse abyss a couple times over the years, his cautionary tale seemed very familiar.

The writing advice was helpful but this was in no way my favorite book on writing. It seems Old Stevie makes a lot more up on the fly than I'm comfortable doing. Still, his advice on omitting needless words and the second draft being the first draft less 10% seemed helpful. Sticking with your first word choice also seems like sound advice.

I'd forgotten there was a section of 1408 included, in first and second draft forms. It was an interesting look behind the curtain and made a lot of sense.

Anyway, if you're looking for writing advice, you could do a lot worse than sitting at the feet of the King for a few hours and absorbing what he has to say. I'll try to apply his lessons the next time I write something. Four out of five stars.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
July 14, 2020
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King

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 childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. From back cover.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز یازده ماه اکتبر سال 2017 میلادی

عنوان: از نوشتن: درس‌های استیون کینگ از نویسندگی؛ نویسنده استيون (استیفن) كينگ؛ مترجم شيرين سادات‌صفوی؛ زیر نظر احسان محمدزاده؛ تهران انتشارات میلکان‏‫، 1395؛ در 224ص؛ شابک 9786007443712؛ موضوع سرگذشتنامه استیون کینگ نویسندگان آمریکایی -- سده 21م

عنوان: راز نوشتن؛ نویسنده: استیفن کینگ؛ مترجم علی حاجی‌قاسم؛ ویرایش دفتر انتشارات نگاه؛ تهران نگاه‏‫، 1396؛ در 328ص؛ شابک 9786003762190؛

این کتاب، با سه مقدمه از «کینگ» همراه است؛ ایشان، در یکی از این مقدمه‌ ها، درباره ی انگیزه ی خود، از نوشتن این کتاب، نوشته است «مدت‌ها بود ایده ی نوشتن کتاب کوچکی، در مورد نویسندگی، ذهنم را به خود مشغول کرده بود، ولی شروع نمی‌کردم، چون بابت انگیزه ی خودم، مطمئن نبودم- چرا می‌خواستم در مورد نویسندگی بنویسم؟ چرا فکر می‌کردم حرفی دارم که ارزش تکرار را دارد؟ پاسخ ساده این است، که وقتی کسی به اندازه ی من کتاب داستان فروخته، لابد مطلب به درد بخوری دارد، که در این‌باره بگوید؛ ولی جواب ساده، همیشه بهترین جواب نیست...؛ اگر می‌خواستم اینقدر جاه‌ طلبی به خرج دهم، و به آدم‌ها بگویم، چطور داستان بنویسند، پس حداقل باید، دلیلی جز شهرت مردمی خود را، باید بهانه می‌کردم؛ به زبان دیگر، نمی‌خواستم کتابی هر چقدر کوتاه بنویسم، که بعدا حس کنم، به خاطر آن، یک عوضی ادبی، یا چرندگوی برتر هستم؛ از این مدل کتاب‌ها و نویسنده‌ ها، به اندازه کافی در بازار وجود دارد، پس نه، ممنون.؛ پایان نقل

کینگ درس‌ گفتارهای خود، در این کتاب را با تعریف چیستی نویسندگی آغاز کرده، و در ادامه، از جعبه ابزاری سخن گفته، که به گفته ی وی، برای نوشتن باید در اختیار هر نویسنده‌ ای باشد؛ بخشی دیگری از این کتاب نیز شامل چهار گفتار جداگانه درباره ی چگونگی نوشتن متن داستان است.؛

کینگ در بخشی از کتاب خود می‌نویسند: دایره ی واژگانتان را، طبقه اول جعبه ی ابزارتان بگذارید، و عمدتا تلاشی برای بهبود آن، به خرج ندهید؛ یکی از بدترین کارهایی که میتوانید، در حق نوشته‌ تان بکنید، این است که کلماتش را تزئین کنید، و عمدا دنبال کلمات طولانی بگردید، چون شاید یک کم از کلمات کوتاه‌تان خجالت می‌کشید.؛ مثل این می‌ماند، که حیوان خانگی‌تان را، با لباس شب تزئیین می‌کنید.؛ همین حالا، به خودتان قول دهید، اگز منظورتان «انعام» بود، از «مواجب» استفاده نکنید، و هیچ وقت به جای «جان، به دستشویی رفت تا کارش را بکند» نگویید «جان، بدان‌جا گام نهاد تا عملیات دفع را آغاز نماید».؛ اگر فکر می‌کنید «انجام آن کار» در دستشویی، از نظر خواننده بی‌تربیتی، و یا توهین‌آمیز است، با خیال راحت بگویید «جان رفت دستشویی».؛ می‌خواهم ساده و سرراست صحبت کنید.؛ به یاد داشته باشید، قانون طلایی دایره ی واژگان آسان است، که همان نخستین کلمه‌ ای را که به ذهن می‌آید، اگر مناسب و رنگارنگ بود، استفاده کنید.؛ اگر مکث کنید، و بیشتر فکر کنید، کلمه ی دیگری به ذهنتان می‌آید، ولی مطمئنا، این یکی به خوبی گزینه اول نیست، و یا به معنی مورد نظر شما، شباهتی ندارد.؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 23/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
672 reviews4,298 followers
May 26, 2018
"Books are a uniquely portable magic."

This book blew my mind!!! I mean, I knew I loved Stephen King and I already knew a lot of the things you learn in this book, but to read it in his own words is even better!

The biographical part of the book was truly amazing, this man has come through so much, whether it's alcoholism, the drug addiction or the accident which nearly killed him. And he's so humble and honest about all of these things. And it just makes me admire him even more.

As for the actual part where he discusses writing, it's so eye-opening to get a look into how he approaches his work and his stories, and where his ideas come from. I'm by no means an aspiring writer but found it fascinating to read about the do's and don'ts of writing. Some things are fairly obvious, but other things I never would have thought of!

My favourite thing about this book is basically any time he mentions his wife, Tabby. It's like you can almost feel the love and admiration radiate from the pages. These two are couple goals!

I thoroughly loved every single page in the book and didn't want it to end! It was one of the best King books I've ever read. His personality and sense of humour just shine right through!

Absolutely brilliant.

Update: listened to the audiobook in May 2018 and it was EVEN BETTER as the man himself narrates it. Highly recommend to all Constant Readers and aspiring writers.
Profile Image for Kimber Silver.
Author 1 book266 followers
July 20, 2023
"The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better."

I've been a Stephen King fan since the 80s, but after reading this book found that I knew less about his life than I realized. He had a wild ride pre-publication and after.

While the writing portion of this book might not be for everyone, any King fan will love the memoir sections. His terrific sense of humor and straightforward writing tips made this an enjoyable read.

Right on, SK.
Write on!

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut."

"Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub."

"I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all. I’m not editorializing, just trying to give you the facts as I see them."
Profile Image for Blake Crouch.
Author 83 books47.1k followers
July 2, 2016
Simply the greatest book ever written about the craft of writing. I have read it more times than I can count, and each new encounter teaches me something new. I imagine even non-writers would thoroughly enjoy Mr. King's memoir.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews606 followers
June 19, 2020
Audiobook.... Steven King
Thoroughly enjoyable...
with Stephen King

A *FEW* KEY POINTS -and suggestions from ‘The King’......
....Narrative, description, and dialogue!!! [three essentials]

....Be honest [I certainly try]

....READ .... for a few minutes
at a time ... or for 4 and 5 hour stretches, daily. [ I do this].

....Health and Family are important to ‘King’ [I like this man]

....Turn off the TV [I’m watching Poldark right now - exceptions must be made]

....WRITE at least a thousand words a day, if serious about being a writer.
[I’m not a serious writer; I’m a serious reader].

There are 5,062 reviews on Amazon with 83% 5-star ratings!
There are:
16, 813 reviews on Goodreads with a 4.33 rating!
MOST PEOPLE enjoyed this book - ME TOO!

King has great advice on storytelling & writing.....
( I liked his ‘stories’ within his advice, very much, too)

A+ for Stephen King!!

Wonderful audiobook!!!

Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,731 followers
January 4, 2020
I'm a fan of Stephen King's earlier works and a lot of the classic movie adaptations. I wouldn't say I'm a superfan, but since I am working on changing my status of aspiring writer to published author, I can use all the help I can get, especially from someone as prolific and universally read as he.

We all know King is a master storyteller. So it's not surprising that for much of this book, he's doing just that. The first big chunk of this book is his "C.V." - a charming memoir of his childhood when the love for writing germinated and was encouraged by his single mother, his teenage years when he collected rejection slips from magazines, his young married life when he balanced teaching, writing, fatherhood and drinking. And then his literary breakthrough, with Carrie. After the "Toolbox" and "On Writing" sections he returns again to his story, recounting the time in 1999 when he got (almost fatally) hit by a weirdo driving a van.

What I liked

* he is so passionate about "the craft"
* he's pretty encouraging and positive - lots of quotable quotes
* he writes in a humble, humorous, accessible style
* we learn a lot about his journey as a writer
* he gives so much credit to his wife, Tabitha
* he uses many examples to illustrate points using his own work
* he considers lots of reading to be essential (and there are two great book lists at the end - I just love book lists!)

Things I didn't really like

* his section on the writer's toolbox was really short, with a lot of emphasis on concepts that seem a bit basic (nix on adverbs, avoid passive voice) for serious writers
* he's really specific about certain things (for example, in dialogue only use 'he said' or 'she said'), which I think is limiting
* he's really NOT specific about most big things (this is my main disappointment with the book). Stories for him come "quite literally from nowhere", are likened to "fossils" that just need to be dug out of the ground. I have no doubt this is true for him, but uh, thanks. I'll just go and dig the fossil, and boom, my story is complete. He mentions that he doesn't plan how his books go, they just evolve with a mind of their own. He doesn't think about symbolism, it just shows up. He doesn't think about theme, but notices that it's there after the fact. Again, I'm sure it's true - I am not going to dispute the magic involved in writing. But if it's pretty much all magic, then why write a book about it?? Actually, he does mention that any decent writer reading this book doesn't really need it, or any other book of its kind. He's not into 'how to', and isn't a fan of writing workshops or courses either (hm).

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is I was really hoping to hear more practical writing advice about structure, what makes a great story, how to create tension, memorable characters, etc and I came up somewhat lacking. That isn't what this book is setting out to do.

Still, everything this guy says has worked for him, tremendously (oops! there's a pesky adverb!), and I am inspired by his deep commitment to, and joy through, the craft.

You must not come lightly to the blank page.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
November 21, 2016
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft offers an illuminating look at Stephen King's life, highlighting moments that shaped him as an author and revealing lessons he gained from decades of practice and publication.

King is unapologetically himself, blending whit and honesty with sophomoric humor and the occasional curse word. For example, when discussing the sin of using passive voice, King provides an example of how not to construct a sentence, followed by the type of commentary one can expect to find throughout his book:

How about this: My first kiss will always be recalled by me as how my romance with Shayna was begun. Oh, man - who farted, right?

When it comes to writing, King offers advice in a comprehensive manner; he is concise and straightforward in his presentation of the fundamental approaches to writing that have shaped him as an author.

There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.

King explains his approach to writing and reveals, without indirectly stating, that he is a discovery writer. He goes so far as to dismiss the validity of first plotting a book before writing. This was the only element of the book that warranted a raised eyebrow. Some authors are plotters and some are discovery writers. Readers are well advised to remember that either approach to writing is acceptable.

From simple stories about writing newspaper articles as a child, to the gut wrenching tale of his recovery from a near-fatal accident, Stephen King's narrative of his own life is arresting from start to finish. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a go-to book for aspiring authors, fans of Stephen King, and any artist feeling creatively stumped that would benefit from a kick in the rear.
Profile Image for Rodrigo Unda.
Author 1 book4,023 followers
September 13, 2022
Desde muy pequeño disfruto de la escritura, pero siempre me he limitado por miedo a no ser bueno, por no saber hacerlo o porque simplemente no tengo la motivación suficiente. Este libro ayudó a quitar cada inseguridad e incertidumbre sobre este miedo.

Stephen King ha sido uno de mis escritores favoritos por un buen tiempo y gracias a sus consejos, anécdotas y recomendaciones, puedo comprender el éxito en su carrera literaria. Me sorprendí mucho con los orígenes de algunas de sus novelas y los consejos que recibió para poder seguir creándolas.

Si tienes ganas de empezar a escribir y no sabes cómo hacerlo, este es un gran comienzo. Eso si, puede que si no conozcas de antes a King, te aburran ciertas partes al ser momentos muy íntimos de su vida.

Yo me quedé con un gran sabor de boca, aprendí muchísimo y lo único que quiero hacer ahora es escribir hasta no poder más.
Profile Image for Tom Lewis.
Author 3 books190 followers
July 19, 2018
For anyone who’s a Stephen King fan or aspiring writer, this should be a must-have. I listened to the Audible that’s read by King, and I highly recommend it. King’s as good of a storyteller vocally as he is on paper. The breakdown of the book goes like this – the first third is about his background, and what lead him to writing. The middle third is about the mechanics of writing, and for me it was more informative than any college course. He discusses “voice,” and themes, and story, and dialogue, and characters, and how he develops and assembles each of these elements. The final third delves into the accident that almost killed him. Five easy stars!
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 18 books1,596 followers
April 30, 2020
This is one of my favorite books on writing and I've read it several times. Since it's also a well written memoir the structure as presented becomes an easy way to learn the art of writing. At the back of the book is a section he shows how he edits some of his own work. He also describes what happened when the van struck him while he walked on the side of the road. Absolutely chilling.
This book is a great insight into a brilliant craftsman, one of the best writer's of our time. I highly recommend this book for readers and writers alike.
David Putnam author of the Bruno Johnson series.
Profile Image for Joshua.
36 reviews13 followers
June 18, 2023
One of my most beloved childhood memories was when I ran through the fairground’s haunted houses. Not only was there never a waiting line, but I also got to relive my favorite nightmares again and again - The same way I do with Stephen King’s stories.

King states that the story is the most important aspect of writing. One testament to his storytelling ability is how absorbed I become with the story that I tend to miss the writing. FYI, He writes phenomenally. To confirm that point I went ahead and started reading Misery as soon as I finished On Writing. (At the beginning of Misery, the MC describes agonizing pain which was eerily like the pain King suffered from being hit by a van 12 years after Misery’s publication.)

The book is broken up into sections, the first two I found the most relevant. ‘CV’ is chock full of personal anecdotes about his journey as an author which began by copying comic books at the age of seven. He gives readers a peek into his world and shows us that anyone can end up in poison ivy… Honestly, my favorite parts were getting the backstory of where his ideas and inspiration came from for some of his most famous novels like Carrie, Misery, and The Stand.

Then he gets down to the nuts and bolts and equates writing skills to tools in a Toolbox (like any craftsperson you need a box full of tools) and then the rest is the Story. He gives the best and clearest writing advice I ever heard. Start with an idea and fill the rest in with imagination. Dig for the story. Each idea is a fossil, and like an archaeologist, we meticulously uncover and expose any other artifacts around it, until we fully excavate the dinosaur (story). To help illustrate his “Door Shut, Door Open” approach he provides an example of several first-draft paragraphs followed by his second-draft edits from his story 1408, showing where he omitted needless words and providing detailed explanations for the changes he made. Write a lot, read a lot. It’s that simple. No shortcuts, no secret formula.

King is touted as “The King of horror”, that he taps into the collective fears of humanity and reflects them back on us, selling us cheap thrills that are akin to running through the haunted house at the fairgrounds. His son, Joe Hill says that it is the politicians who sell fear. While his dad’s stories sell bravery by making the argument that we can kick the darkness until it bleeds daylight.
Profile Image for J. Kent Messum.
Author 5 books234 followers
May 2, 2016
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.

There’s so much for aspiring writers to absorb in these pages. Trials and tribulations, successes and failures, riding on cloud nine and then hitting rock bottom; it’s all here. From King's humble early childhood to the tragic hit-and-run accident that almost killed him about fifteen years ago, 'On Writing' spans the majority of his life and covers the tips and tricks of the trade he picked up while pursuing his calling. Along the way he worked shitty jobs, got married, had kids, lived in a trailer (where he typed his manuscripts in an empty closet), found fame/fortune, and battled addictions with drugs and alcohol among other things.

The insights provided while reading about SK’s long and lucrative career are honest and invaluable. While it might not improve your actual writing, per se, it will certainly help with your mentality on the subject. I read it years ago, and when I finally put the book down, I found myself inspired and newly determined to get my books published. When people ask me about the best books I’ve read in regards to the craft, I always cite ‘On Writing’ as the one that really lit a fire under my ass to pursue writing as a career.

And it's not just writers who will mine a shit ton of personal profit out of this book. Most of what King talks about applies to all of the arts disciplines, if not life in general. At King's age and level of experience, he's acquired a good deal of wisdom. Thankfully, he decided to share it with everyone by doing what he does best. Even harsh critics of King's work and/or writing style will concede that 'On Writing' is one damn fine book.

Highly recommended.

*This book was one of my selections for my '5 Books That Made Me A Better Writer' piece. See which others I picked:

Displaying 1 - 30 of 22,656 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.