MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft

by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King X
On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

I actually began On Writing in November or December of 1997, and although it usually takes me only three months to finish the first draft of a book, this one was still only half-completed eighteen months later. That was because I'd put it aside in February or March of 1998, not sure how to continue, or if I should continue at all. Writing fiction was almost as much fun as it had ever been, but every word of the nonfiction book was a kind of torture. It was the first book I had put aside uncompleted since The Stand, and On Writing spent a lot longer in the desk drawer.

In June of 1999, I decided to spend the summer finishing the damn writing book -- let Susan Moldow and Nan Graham at Scribner decide if it was good or bad, I thought. I read the manuscript over, prepared for the worst, and discovered I actually sort of liked what I had. The road to finishing it seemed clear-cut, too. I had finished the memoir ("C.V."), which attempted to show some of the incidents and life-situations which made me into the sort of writer I turned out to be, and I had covered the mechanics -- those that seemed most important to me, at least. What remained to be done was the key section, "On Writing," where I'd try to answer some of the questions I'd been asked in seminars and at speaking engagements, plus all those I wish I'd been asked...those questions about the language.

On the night of June seventeenth, blissfully unaware that I was now less than forty-eight hours from my little date with Bryan Smith (not to mention Bullet the rottweiler), I sat down at our dining room table and listed all the questions I wanted to answer, all the points I wanted to address. On the eighteenth, I wrote the first four pages of the "On Writing" section. That was where the work still stood in late July, when I decided I'd better get back to work...or at least try.

I didn't want to go back to work. I was in a lot of pain, unable to bend my right knee, and restricted to a walker. I couldn't imagine sitting behind a desk for long, even in my wheelchair. Because of my cataclysmically smashed hip, sitting was torture after forty minutes or so, impossible after an hour and a quarter. Added to this was the book itself, which seemed more daunting than ever -- how was I supposed to write about dialogue, character, and getting an agent when the most pressing thing in my world was how long until the next dose of Percocet?

Yet at the same time I felt I'd reached one of those crossroads moments when you're all out of choices. And I had been in terrible situations before which the writing had helped me get over -- had helped me forget myself for at least a little while. Perhaps it would help me again. It seemed ridiculous to think it might be so, given the level of my pain and physical incapacitation, but there was that voice in the back of my mind, both patient and implacable, telling me that, in the words of the Chambers Brothers, Time Has Come Today. It's possible for me to disobey that voice, but very difficult to disbelieve it.

In the end it was Tabby who cast the deciding vote, as she so often has at crucial moments in my life. I'd like to think I've done the same for her from time to time, because it seems to me that one of the things marriage is about is casting the tiebreaking vote when you just can't decide what you should do next.

My wife is the person in my life who's most likely to say I'm working too hard, it's time to slow down, stay away from that damn PowerBook for a little while, Steve, give it a rest. When I told her on that July morning that I thought I'd better go back to work, I expected a lecture. Instead, she asked me where I wanted to set up. I told her I didn't know, hadn't even thought about it.

She thought about it, then said: "I can rig a table for you in the back hall, outside the pantry. There are plenty of plug-ins -- you can have your Mac, the little printer, and a fan." The fan was certainly a must -- it had been a terrifically hot summer, and on the day I went back to work, the temperature outside was ninety-five. It wasn't much cooler in the back hall.

  • 1
  • 2

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 3 months or $12 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    by Dexter Palmer
    The year is 1726 and the sleepy town of Godalming has been rocked by scandal. Called to the bedside ...
  • Book Jacket: Life Undercover
    Life Undercover
    by Amaryllis Fox
    Life Undercover, a riveting true-adventure memoir, reveals how and why a young woman decides to work...
  • Book Jacket: Celestial Bodies
    Celestial Bodies
    by Jokha Alharthi
    One typically expects to find a detailed family tree adorning the opening pages of, say, an epic ...
  • Book Jacket: All-American Muslim Girl
    All-American Muslim Girl
    by Nadine Jolie Courtney
    16-year-old Allie (Alia) Abraham, with her fair coloring, has always been able to "pass" for an All-...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"
—BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Father of Lions
    by Louise Callaghan

    A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Welcome to the Pine Away Motel and Cabins
    by Katarina Bivald

    A heartwarming story of love, friendship, and the art of living.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Giveaway!
Win American Dirt

"A Grapes of Wrath for our times." - Don Winslow

This debut is already being hailed as a new American classic, and is the first book to receive a perfect 5-stars from BookBrowse reviewers!

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

V I T S Of L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.