Summary and book reviews of On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft

by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2000, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2001, 288 pages

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Book Summary

On Writing begins with King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade and culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery.

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft -- and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade -- how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King's overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower -- and entertain -- everyone who reads it.

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-...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do you agree with Stephen King that the desire to write always starts with a love of reading?
  2. What role did Stephen King's childhood play in his evolution as a writer? Did your childhood experiences influence your desire to write?
  3. King was encouraged from a young age by his mother, who told him one of his boyhood stories was "good enough to be in a book." Was there someone in your life who encouraged your earliest efforts?
  4. At what age do you remember thinking you wanted to write? What do you remember writing when you were young?
  5. King's wife Tabitha is his "Ideal Reader," the one-person audience he has in mind when writing a first draft. When you write, do you envision a particular Ideal Reader? Who is that person and why?
  6. While ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Salon.com - Gary Krist

"I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin", King explains at one point in the book. This is a revealing statement, and one that goes to the heart of what makes him a unique presence in contemporary American fiction. But in this memoir of the craft, he doesn't really explore those deeper connections between self and story. On Writing would have been a far more memorable book if it had focused on King's love of the night rather than his love of the deleted adverb.

Salon.com - Gary Krist

"I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin", King explains at one point in the book. This is a revealing statement, and one that goes to the heart of what makes him a unique presence in contemporary American fiction. But in this memoir of the craft, he doesn't really explore those deeper connections between self and story. On Writing would have been a far more memorable book if it had focused on King's love of the night rather than his love of the deleted adverb.

Publishers Weekly

The real importance of this congenial, ramshackle book, however, lies neither in its autobiography nor in its pedagogy, but in its triumphant vindication of the popular writer, including the genre author, as a writer. King refuses to draw, and makes a strong case for the abolition of, the usual critical lines between Carver and Chandler, Greene and Grisham, DeLillo and Dickens.

Library Journal

In 1981 King penned Danse Macabre, a thoughtful analysis of the horror genre. Now he is treating his vast readership to another glimpse into the intellect that spawns his astoundingly imaginative works.... we who climb aboard for this ride with the master spend a few pleasant hours under the impression that we know what it is like to think like Stephen King.

Library Journal

In 1981 King penned Danse Macabre, a thoughtful analysis of the horror genre. Now he is treating his vast readership to another glimpse into the intellect that spawns his astoundingly imaginative works.... we who climb aboard for this ride with the master spend a few pleasant hours under the impression that we know what it is like to think like Stephen King.

Kirkus Reviews

Generous, lucid, and passionate, King (Hearts in Atlantis, 1999, etc.) offers lessons and encouragement to the beginning writer..

Kirkus Reviews

Generous, lucid, and passionate, King (Hearts in Atlantis, 1999, etc.) offers lessons and encouragement to the beginning writer..

Reader Reviews

Ashley

I've just started reading this book, and it seems to be quite a breath of fresh air. I saw it in a store, and because I want to be a writer myself, I decided to buy it. And I am so thankful that I did. For anyone who wished to pursue this career, or ...   Read More

Christopher Mullins

StephenKking inspires people in a way that most can not. He explains writing fiction in a straight to the point kind of way which makes the book easily understood.

Jennifer Laws

I was completely enthralled with this book from cover to cover. I gave it to several of my friends who now treasure it as one of their most prize gifts.

Robin Fink
Book Review on Stephen King's
Stephen King's book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft", is an encouraging book for beginning writer's to read. I found this book to be motivating. King reminds us through hs book that discouragment will come but persistance leads to sucessful ...   Read More

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