Book Review: Stephen King's 'On Writing.'

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Sep 25, 2014

I've enjoyed many of Stephen King's books. I think he's a cracking writer. I preferred his TV adaptation of 'The Shining' to the Kubrick version, too, in certain respects. The father in his version was a sad, upsetting, all too human figure, redeemed at the end.

There's a point where I sometimes find the stories too much, over-egged, and start to disengage emotionally, as with 'Salem's Lot,' and with powerful exceptions, 'Cujo' and 'Misery.'

His book 'On Writing' was one of a few that have kept me welcome company during stretches when things seemed stalled or soggy in the middle.

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

It's hard not to do both, going along, but if you do, it feels a bit like Penelope, weaving by day, unravelling it at night.

I recommend the book. Short of that, more of his thoughts on writing here:
I'll be honest, I've never been a great Stephen King fan. I've enjoyed some films of his novels and I liked Misery, but I've never really got into his novels the way a lot of people can. This book though I want to read. It's waiting for me in my enormous pile of books to read...
This book did more for me than any other book on writing I've ever read. I really enjoyed his down-to-earth approach. I've been reading his books since I was in high school and I still adore them. :)
It’s a very worthwhile read, and I often suggest it. I know many writers who swear by it.

You need to remember, though, that Stephen is really telling people what works for him. And he’s pretty much a genius.

EG he apparently rarely plots a novel. Well, he can get away with that, probably because he does it subconsciously in his voluminous cranium. For the rest of us mortal folk, though, plotting is pretty indispensable :confused:
I fully admit I'm terrible when it comes to plotting. I do in-depth character sketches before I write, making sure I know them and their GMCs well, (goal, motivation, conflicts) but then I just write and let them tell me where to go next. It makes for some interesting back pedaling to fix plot holes during edits, but it's always an adventure. :)
When you consider how many chemicals he ingested, that’s hardly surprising ;) He can’t remember writing many of his manuscripts!
I agree with Peter in terms of the plotting. I took Stephen King's notion that a story takes shape the way an artifact does under an archeologist's brush to heart; the form emerging with each sweep. The result of my attempts in this regard is two novels with absolutely no unifying premise; a hodgepodge of semi-related events and subplots, held together by a beginning and an end. For me plotting is an absolute necessity.
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'Kill your darlings, kill your darlings'......oh no.....but I expect he's right (sigh)
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Like his books or not, even when he doesn't get it right himself, in my opinion, I'll still take his advice. It's a case of do as I say, not as I do. He knows all about the slog. He had a wall pinned with agent rejections, threw 'Carrie' in the bin, the story goes, and his wife fished it out, and said oh no you don't. His first 'hit.'
I found On Writing one of the best books on writing, not even especially because I remember all of it or that I agree with everything he says, but because he gets it. It feels like a good chat with a fellow writer, and I absolutely enjoyed it. I think a lot of his advice etc is great, but it was that sense of connecting with someone who gets it that I really liked about the book!
King has always been a two-edged sword for me. I think that some of his shorter work and especially Hearts in Atlantis might well be as good as American letters got this past century, but there is so much that seems surface generic. He does know how to get a story written though. I've been putting off reading this since I tried to get past his self-aggrandizing lapses in The Stand. KTLN's recommend will push me into it.
I've heard The Stand needed more editing than it was given.

Mind you, there are plenty of books I'd say that about with authors less talented, less experienced and just generally less than King, so :eek:;)
Definitely. To be honest, and I know it may sound weird, but I think "On Writing" was the first book of his I ever read :D (I think I saw a couple of movies based on his books) but I really liked it, and it actually made me more interested in reading his fiction.
He's right about killing darlings. Anyone being precious about their writing needs a kick up the ... preferably self-administered. It's not OK to be touchy about it. I wrote a first draft, 250 000k, it was plotted, and yet, it wasn't till the end that I realised it was a minor character's story I needed to tell. :rolleyes: So I had to start from scratch, nothing for it, 5 drafts and a modest 85k at the end of it, and I'm so glad I did, but I won't do it like that again.
Love this book - it is my bible. Incidentally - anyone read his son's work, Joe Hill? I just read 'Horns' and really enjoyed it. Quite a different style but nonetheless exceptionally well written.
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Fanfare! YA Novel, On Parson's Creek Now In Print, Too!

Book Review: The Apprentice