Dan Schwent's Reviews > On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing by Stephen King
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Feb 07, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: nf, 2016, 2016-books

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 writing 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.
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Quotes Dan Liked

Stephen King
“Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Reading Progress

February 7, 2008 – Shelved
August 6, 2009 – Shelved as: nf
May 18, 2016 –
page 55
17.19% (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
May 19, 2016 – Started Reading
May 19, 2016 –
page 74
23.13% (Mass Market Paperback Edition)
May 19, 2016 –
page 74
25.69%
May 19, 2016 –
page 99
34.38%
May 19, 2016 –
page 105
36.46%
May 19, 2016 –
page 180
62.5%
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016
May 19, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 15, 2016 – Shelved as: 2016-books

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Edward Lorn My favorite bit in that book is when King's describing his mother telling him a story about watching a man fall to his death. She says "The stuff that came out of him was green. I'll never for get it." And King writes, "Neither will I, Mom. Neither will I."


message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Edward wrote: "My favorite bit in that book is when King's describing his mother telling him a story about watching a man fall to his death. She says "The stuff that came out of him was green. I'll never for get ..."

That's a good one.


message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Khatarnak wrote: "So when do we get to enjoy your lottery win?"

I plan on getting back on the horse soon.


Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ Excellent review, Dan. I am also a huge fan of this book. I'll have to read it again one of these days.


message 5: by Bill (new)

Bill Great review Dan. I really enjoyed this one as well but didn't review it. 5 stars!
“Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― "

I have used this quote's idea over and over to explain most of my one-star reviews. If I can't buy into a character's actions, reprehensible or not, the book is a no-go for me. King gets this (well, most of the time!) and this is why he's my favorite author.


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Schwent Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈ wrote: "Excellent review, Dan. I am also a huge fan of this book. I'll have to read it again one of these days."

Thanks!


Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder* I loved this one too.


Tamahome “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do -- not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less bullshit." -- Stephen King, On Writing”


Cecily The "omit needless words" advice comes from Strunk and White, but he reinforces it and adds a number. Personally, I've never understood how to apply it: if you know which are needless, you wouldn't put them in, would you?


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