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View Full Version : Stephen King's On Writing: Is It Worth Buying?



ezc_19
10-06-2008, 12:20 AM
What does Stephen King talk about in "On Writing"? I've heard some very good things about it, is it really a must buy? I'm leaning towards ordering it, I'm just trying to see if anyone else has found it useful.

DeleyanLee
10-06-2008, 12:23 AM
I got it because when someone is as successful as Stephen King and is willing to talk about his process, I figured it was worth a few buck to see what he had to say.

While I didn't really get into his autobiography (though it was interesting to see where he came from) in the first part of the book, his views on how to write were very interesting and somewhat, to my thinking, contraversial. He said some things that totally clicked and reaffirmed what I was doing and he said other things I totally disagreed with.

Personally, I don't think it was a waste of time or money to get it and I do find myself going back to reread the second half (where he talks about writing and his process) from time to time.

A "must have"? Totally depends on you, but it's on my keeper shelf.

Mad Queen
10-06-2008, 12:59 AM
I love it and my favourite part is the autobiography. I don't agree with all his views on writing and other books offer better advice, but his autobiography entertained me more than all his fiction books and the movies based on them put together.

Williebee
10-06-2008, 01:01 AM
His views on writing, the writing process, and the power of good writing were insightful and re-affirming for me. It stays on my keeper shelf.

Ali B
10-06-2008, 01:02 AM
Loved it. It is still on my shelf today.

ChaosTitan
10-06-2008, 01:07 AM
If your purse strings are too tight to warrant buying a copy, find someone who can lend it. It's definitely worth reading.

Cybernaught
10-06-2008, 01:28 AM
I consider it the Writer's bible.

Telstar
10-06-2008, 01:29 AM
I like it. Good to have.

vixey
10-06-2008, 01:36 AM
I borrowed it from our library and read it cover to cover in a few hours. I, too, preferred the autobiography/memoir part. Since I'm helping someone write about a year in her life, I'd like to have King's book for reference. He told anecdotal stories and tied them together well, which is what I want to do.

I plan to buy it even though I've already read it.

ETA: Most of his writing tips you can find on Uncle Jim's thread here (FREE!).

C A Winters
10-06-2008, 01:37 AM
I learned a lot about Stephen King, but very little about what is really acceptable in today's writing market. I believe many of the rules of writing have changed a great deal since King came into fame. His views are of what made him successful, and will not necessarily work for others.

I do admire him greatly for his accomplishments. :)

benbradley
10-06-2008, 01:43 AM
Call, look online, or go to your local library. There's a copy in my small rural-area library, so I would imagine there would be a copy in yours as well.

I don't know that it's a "must have" but a lot of people seem to like it. I think he's clear (as I think many writers writing on writing are) that he writes about how HE writes, not neccesarily how other successful writers write, or how YOU should write. I know I (NOT a successful writer yet...) couldn't write with Bachman-Turner Overdrive blaring out of the stereo.

I got rather bored with all the little points/vignettes about his life that make up the first half of the book, but later on he tells a dramatic story of a guy walking down a road who gets hit by a van driven by a drunk driver and nearly dies...

Mad Queen
10-06-2008, 01:47 AM
I loved the little vignettes. Funny and enchanting.

bsolah
10-06-2008, 01:54 AM
I love it. My most read book on my shelf by far. Not only is the writing section honest and helpful, but his memoir will inspire you to no end.

Bufty
10-06-2008, 02:35 AM
I found it an interesting and enjoyable read, particularly re the biographical details but I can't say it made me jump about, shouting 'Eureka'.

bsolah
10-06-2008, 02:38 AM
...but I can't say it made me jump about, shouting 'Eureka'.

And I think that's the value of the book. No writing book is going to give you the secret weapon to writing success, especially when they claim to. King was quite honest about what his book was set to achieve, and it wasn't the bullshit that other books on writing tend to be filled with.

Bufty
10-06-2008, 02:43 AM
Agreed. And it shouldn't be read as if it were going to provide a 'Eureka'.


And I think that's the value of the book. No writing book is going to give you the secret weapon to writing success, especially when they claim to. King was quite honest about what his book was set to achieve, and it wasn't the bullshit that other books on writing tend to be filled with.

stormie
10-06-2008, 02:49 AM
One of my top five books on writing.

Medievalist
10-06-2008, 02:53 AM
It's very good--and I'll be using to teach with, since much of what King says applies to any sort of writing, even non-fiction.

And your local library will have at least one copy.

Shadow Paetz
10-06-2008, 03:29 AM
Stephen King isn't God, but he's good. Lots of valuable insight into his method of writing, but each person should take every bit of advice with a grain of salt. What works for King may not work for you. Just like any other writing book, just get what you can out of it and use common sense to determine what might work for you and what might not.

Grrarrgh
10-06-2008, 03:35 AM
I actually have a couple copies of this book. One paperback that I'm willing to lend out and one hardback that I'm not. I love it. He's one of my favorite writer's, so I loved the autobiographical part of the book. I've actually read that part several times. He's very clear in stating that what works for him may not work for you, but it's all he knows. I highly recommend buying this book.

Scribhneoir
10-06-2008, 03:45 AM
It didn't do much for me. It was interesting enough to read once, but I've never been inclined to revisit it. I'd suggest checking it out from the library first.

Carmy
10-06-2008, 03:55 AM
I'm with C A Winters and Scribhneoir.

I enjoy King's fiction, but I think this book is overrated. Borrow it if you can, but don't waste your money. There is far better advice available free on the Internet.

Robin Bayne
10-06-2008, 04:00 AM
I read it a while back, and remember the advice was good, but no better than many other writing books.

What really stuck with me is the fact that he once used poison ivy leaves out in the woods for toilet paper.:e2faint::e2faint:

bsolah
10-06-2008, 04:04 AM
What stuck with me was the story about whilst he and Tabby were working those shitty jobs, paying to look after sick kids, he kept writing in that laundry room, he never gave up. And then one day he got a call from his publisher saying the paperback rights to Carrie were sold for a handsome sum of money, he collapsed on the floor and cried.

That for me is so motivating whenever I read that story.

Alpha Echo
10-06-2008, 04:53 AM
I have it. I think it's worth it. You can get it pretty cheap though on Amazon or a local used-book store.

Eldritch
10-06-2008, 05:21 AM
I love this book!

I bought a copy to loan out to the members of my writers group, and I have my own copy which I've read a number of times.

If you're relatively new to the craft of writing, this book is a must-read.

MsK
10-06-2008, 05:31 AM
I love this book! It's not only informative, it's also motivational. Every time I read it, I feel encouraged to be a better story teller. Yes, you should own the book- it's well worth the investment.

wyntermoon
10-06-2008, 05:43 AM
Every time I want to give up and say it's not worth the aggravation (whaaaaaaaa), I think of King and the rejection slips he impaled through the nail he'd hammered into his wall. When one filled up, he'd hammer in another...and another...and another. If he can do it...

Sean D. Schaffer
10-06-2008, 06:36 AM
What does Stephen King talk about in "On Writing"? I've heard some very good things about it, is it really a must buy? I'm leaning towards ordering it, I'm just trying to see if anyone else has found it useful.


Yes, I think it is. I bought a copy from a used book store, and Mr. King's attitudes helped me out immensely. I learned an awful lot from that book about both the mechanics and attitude of writing. I really do think it is a must-buy.

:)

OttR
10-06-2008, 07:33 AM
Definitely one of the top 250 books on writing.

dpaterso
10-06-2008, 11:54 AM
Truth to tell, I didn't much care for this book. I would have appreciated if the author had confined his meandering autobiography to one chapter, followed by writing hints & mechanics. Mind you, that would have made for a very thin paperback as opposed to a bloated hardcover whose "how-to" content could be reduced to a pageful of tips (most of which I'd heard before, e.g. the ten percent rule, by any other name).

I realize I could have stopped after the 1st sentence above, but I thought I'd try the King approach and just keep going.

-Derek

seun
10-06-2008, 04:33 PM
I've read it a few times. Sometimes for simple enjoyment, others to see what helps with writing. It's worth checking out.

Bartholomew
10-06-2008, 05:06 PM
It's about as valuable as any other "how to" book. King has a great track record, and he offers some sound advice. If you learn well from books and you think he had a style you like, you could definitely buy worse books. But it is hardly something you need to buy. The advice in that book has been regurgitated a dozen other places.

Susan Lanigan
10-06-2008, 06:57 PM
I have it. It's worth my money for the warning on how to deal with exposition:

"Hello, ex-wife," said Tom to Doris when she entered the room.

:)

Surprisingly, I find the Julia Cameron book I have worked great for me when I was in the middle of draft 1 (I'm closer to the end now) because it encourages you to work past the fear, which is really the most important thing. Strunk & White can wait until draft 3.

CaroGirl
10-06-2008, 07:08 PM
I'd say it's a must-read for an aspiring novelist. I don't know if it's a must-own. I borrowed it from the library, read it from cover to cover and enjoyed every minute of it. I remember everything he said and haven't been tempted to either buy it or re-borrow it from the library. Your call, though.

chrysalnix
10-06-2008, 07:25 PM
I have Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way," and haven't been able to get much out of it. My morning pages didn't quite have the effect they were supposed to and every now and then when I go sifting through my old writings, I'll stumble over a page or two of them, roll my eyes, and rip out the pages. For some reason, I took morning pages to be some sort of journal about my inner thoughts and feelings. I hate that crap. (Sorry, but that's just me.)

On page 210 of Stephen King's book, he talks about writing fast, at least comfortably fast, and not looking back unless it's to check a fact or two here and there. By not looking back, he finishes the story without it reaching that notorious wall. I really relate to this because I have trouble with the wall. Not so much because I run out of ideas. I just get overwhelmed and stop writing.

It's a keeper for me. Also good is James Scott Bell's "Plot and Structure."

I have tons of these books and, while there isn't anything new in any of them, I always refer to them when I'm stuck. It all boils down to hard work anyway. If there were a magic bullet to this thing, someone would have told us by now. I hope.

Susan Lanigan
10-07-2008, 08:06 AM
I have Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way," and haven't been able to get much out of it. My morning pages didn't quite have the effect they were supposed to and every now and then when I go sifting through my old writings, I'll stumble over a page or two of them, roll my eyes, and rip out the pages. For some reason, I took morning pages to be some sort of journal about my inner thoughts and feelings. I hate that crap. (Sorry, but that's just me.)


Oh yeah, forget Morning f*cking pages, that's a load of bollocks (excuse swearing, it's late night / early morning and I'm high on First Draft Finished euphoria). I don't do mornings at all.

The one I had, The Right to Write, was great because it had exercises not to improve plot or structure or character, but to get past the gut-paralysing fear that everything you write is crap and there's no point even bothering. She says, permit it to be crap. Because earlier on I was frozen analysing every sentence I wrote and arguably I'm writing better now than earlier on in the novel because my sentences are less precious and more about moving on with the damn story.

Two other useful suggestions were "laying track" - i.e. getting the flipping thing from A to B without getting bogged down in too much plot mechanism and detail - and not to believe that all coincidences and tying up of loose ends were miraculously plotted beforehand. They're more likely to drop into the story and reveal themselves to you as you go along. I didn't believe her, but once I got towards the end, I realised Julia Cameron was right.

So I have to revise my opinion of her upwards.

Michael Parks
10-07-2008, 08:26 AM
Loved it. It is still on my shelf today.

same

Bartholomew
10-07-2008, 09:31 AM
Oh yeah, forget Morning f*cking pages, that's a load of bollocks (excuse swearing, it's late night / early morning and I'm high on First Draft Finished euphoria). I don't do mornings at all.

The one I had, The Right to Write, was great because it had exercises not to improve plot or structure or character, but to get past the gut-paralysing fear that everything you write is crap and there's no point even bothering. She says, permit it to be crap. Because earlier on I was frozen analysing every sentence I wrote and arguably I'm writing better now than earlier on in the novel because my sentences are less precious and more about moving on with the damn story.

Two other useful suggestions were "laying track" - i.e. getting the flipping thing from A to B without getting bogged down in too much plot mechanism and detail - and not to believe that all coincidences and tying up of loose ends were miraculously plotted beforehand. They're more likely to drop into the story and reveal themselves to you as you go along. I didn't believe her, but once I got towards the end, I realised Julia Cameron was right.

So I have to revise my opinion of her upwards.

Morning pages work great for me, if, by morning, you mean, "It is now four AM, I haven't slept, I have to get up in an hour, but that's OK, because I finally figured out the best way to finish that scene."

Dawnstorm
10-07-2008, 09:52 AM
I'm pretty much incompatible with King. I don't read most of the books he reads, and I can't really apply any of his writing advice. That said, the book has reaffirmed my respect for the man. It's obvious he knows what he's doing, and he's absolutely doing the right thing with embedding the writing advice in a biography, as this shows us where he comes from, and also relativises his approach. One thing I found tremendously interesting is that he put an example of his editing process into the appendix (typed and corrected script with comments). This alone should show you his no-nonsense approach to talking about his writing. No aces up his sleeves; what you get is what you see.

Well worth a read.

[Oh, and whatever King says: There is no passive tense!]

MagicMan
10-07-2008, 10:39 AM
Truth be told, Stephen King's books are not written all that well. The story, the plot arrangement, the pace and twists are what make his books captivating. Take any page and analyze the writing as an English professor, and you do not get even near an A.

Just my opinion
Smiles
Bob

OctoberRain
10-07-2008, 10:59 AM
I love this book. As someone earlier said, I'm not sure how relevant some of his advice might be in today's market, but as a huge fan of King's, I loved reading about his process and the things that shaped his writing.

It's definitely worth buying, in my opinion.

Unique
10-07-2008, 02:34 PM
Read it at the library first, then decide. I read it; I liked it, but I doubt I'd buy it. YMMV.



I have Julia Cameron's book, "The Artist's Way,"


I read parts of that. It's definitely not a library use only book; it's too detailed.

I prefer her "Right to Write" book. It's not nearly as dense and I actually found it useful. Again - YMMV

Stacia Kane
10-07-2008, 05:02 PM
Truth be told, Stephen King's books are not written all that well. The story, the plot arrangement, the pace and twists are what make his books captivating. Take any page and analyze the writing as an English professor, and you do not get even near an A.

Just my opinion
Smiles
Bob

I totally disagree; I think King is a fantastic writer, on the whole. :) If you take most books an analyze them as English professors, you're going to find them lacking, because in my experience English professors don't teach fiction writing, but non-fic/composition writing, which is very different.

I agree On Writing isn't as useful as far as hard-and-fast tips go (although there are a few good ones; as has been pointed out, the edited ms pages alone are really helpful). His advice on the getting of agents is way off, and as someone who cannot write a short story to save her life I dislike the emphasis on shorts as being where you learn to write and something all writers should do. But it's a great book; very inspirational, very motivational, very no-nonsense and fun. Well worth a read, certainly.

stormie
10-07-2008, 06:20 PM
As it stands, not one book about writing can be taken as totally the gospel truth.

What you can do is look through the book at the library. See if it's a keeper. Then decide to buy it or not. If Amazon has a "Look inside the book" feature enabled, use that to decide.

eveningstar
10-07-2008, 06:58 PM
It's one of my favorites, I re-read it once in awhile.

It is not a how-to book, really. It's more like what you'd hear if you were sitting next to King during a really slow Red Sox game bantering about writing. It's valuable stuff, but it is not "this is how you become Stephen King."

The writing as telepathy bit is what stays with me the most, and is an idea that I return to again & again when I'm writing.

Kirby
10-08-2008, 05:45 PM
I received it as a gift and I enjoyed it. The other book I recommend is "The First Five Pages," by Noah Lukeman. He's an agent that decided it was time to help all those writers he rejected.

AnneAtWordHustler
10-08-2008, 10:10 PM
I'm with the "Pro-King-ers." I am not a fan of his other works (call me squeamish) but this book about the craft of writing is priceless. DEFINITELY a must-have.

RuLaReJo
10-10-2008, 08:59 PM
I bought one, my mom bought one, I bought one for another writer friend, my Creative Writing teacher recommends it and quotes it frequently (most often "The road to Hell is paved with adverbs."). I love it, both halves, and have read it several times. Definitely on my keeper shelf.

It's the book that gave me the kick in the butt to stop self-editing as I write and just SHUT UP AND WRITE. Although the advice on "closing the door" doesn't really work for me...I'm a very social person, I do my best word-count when I'm surrounded by the burble of voices. But I believe he admits that he doesn't know everything, which is nice.

I swear, he gets a bum rap, just because he's prolific. "If he puts out that many, they can't all be that good." Wrong! *collects receipt for her two cents*

fullbookjacket
10-11-2008, 05:19 AM
I haven't read On Writing, but Stephen King's early nonfiction work, Danse Macabre, is a lot of fun.

The guy can write a scene that's as cinematic and descriptive as there is. My problem with Mr. King is that he ignores his own advice on ruthless trimming and editing. I recently waded through his voluminous It...damn. The core of the story was exciting and intriguing, but it rambled on a good 600 pages too many. It stopped being a page-turner after awhile and became instead a chore. His earlier novels--before he became Citizen King and could dictate his terms to publishers and editors--were so much better.

C.bronco
10-11-2008, 05:39 AM
Everyone I know who has read it says it is great.

One of these days, I plan to read it too.

When I was interviewed for high school, the admissions guy asked a 13 year-old C.bronco, "Who is your hero?"

I said, "Stephen King, because he gets to do what he loves for a living."

MrWrite
10-11-2008, 05:50 AM
I have it too and found it a very enjoyable and useful read. As has been said not a wealth of "how to" info but some good tips and I found it inspirational. As has been said get it from the library or sit in Barnes and Noble and read it. It's a fairly quick read.

virtue_summer
10-11-2008, 06:49 AM
I love On Writing although admittedly I look to it more for inspiration than for a step by step guide to writing. I also completely disagree about King's books not being well written. An academic paper and a novel are different creatures. King's stories have always read smoothly to me, a lot better than a lot of writers out there.

jennifer75
10-11-2008, 06:55 AM
What does Stephen King talk about in "On Writing"? I've heard some very good things about it, is it really a must buy? I'm leaning towards ordering it, I'm just trying to see if anyone else has found it useful.

You should buy it so that an ear infection makes you laugh HYSTERICALLY!!!! I did.

I actually only got about 10 pages in...and lent it to a coworker cause I wanted to read something else at the moment, but you better believe I'm gonna get that back soon.

Chrisla
10-11-2008, 11:13 AM
I like the book, both the autobiography and his section on writing. He, himself, says "You dont need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. . . You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself."

I think that the books each writer considers necessary depend on the way that writer learns. I learn best by doing, so I like the exercises in "The First Five Pages." I still use some of them to edit my drafts.