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On Writing by Stephen King PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Kat Duncan   
Saturday, 25 December 2010 18:55

I just finished reading On Writing by Stephen King and I can recommend it to you as an easy read as well as food for thought as you continue on your writing career path. Mr. King explains how he got started in writing and how difficult his path to publication was at first. He describes his writing habits and gives insights into how he brings an idea to draft to polished draft. If nothing else, it's interesting to read about how a successful writer got started and how he views his career path now. Although the book was published ten years ago, it still has something of value to offer beginning authors.

For one thing, it's a well written and honest account of a professional author. For another, it gives solid and very basic advice about how to improve one's craft of writing. Mr. King covers several areas of writing craft including word choice and grammar, paragraphs and style. His coverage is conversational and not in the least bit textbookish. He provides some examples of what to avoid and why. When explaining that style should fit a reader's expectation of a conversation, he says "Good writing is seduction. Good talk is part of seduction. If not so, why do so many couples who start the evening at dinner wind up in bed?"

Some of the other topics Mr. King covers in his book are narration, description and dialogue. He describes the book-buying public as people who, "want something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in, then keep them turning the pages". In his own search for good stories Mr. King relies less on plot and more on situation. He believes that when he has an idea for a situation and starts to draft, the story unfolds in the same way a fossil is gently coaxed out of the ground. After the situation come the characters that fit the situation. This part is done with some introductory narration to open the situation and introduce the characters.

For description he recommends selecting and writing about a few, carefully chosen details that will stand for everything else. He admits this is difficult to do, but it comes with a great deal of practice. The same idea of practice can be said for dialogue, except that Mr. King advises you to be honest in the words you choose for your characters to say. Anything less is not only dishonest to the character and the story, but deceptive to the reader. Even if some readers are not ready to hear the truth, this should not prevent you, the writer, from writing it.

Above all, Mr. King recommends that you "read a lot and write a lot" which, although it may sound like trite advice, is truly the best way to begin or continue a writing career. Mr. King also does not believe that it's possible to make a good writer out of a bad one, or a great writer out of a good one, but he does believe it is possible to make a good writer out of a merely competent one. Are you a competent writer and if so, are you hard at work trying to become a good one?

Last Updated on Monday, 09 July 2012 19:34


0 #4 Kat Duncan 2010-12-26 15:38
I agree, Ilona. It was easy to read and I finished it in a couple of days. Not only that, but I thought he was very honest in what he said about writing being a work of creativity. It wasn't inspiring so much as it was encouraging. He echoed what many others have said about writers. We write because we want to create, not to make money or to be famous. Even agent Donald Maass said that in his first book which BTW is now free for download. http://www.maassagency.com/books.html#career
+1 #3 Ilona Fridl 2010-12-26 15:18
Kat, I read King's book and found it so easy to follow. I'd recommend it for anyone either starting out or published.
0 #2 Kat Duncan 2010-12-26 11:59
That's so true, Beth. Stephen King says you have to "kill your darlings". It's not an original quote, but he also says that he strives to make his 2nd draft 10% smaller than his first draft. I tend to be wordy when I draft, so that might work for me.
+1 #1 Beth Caudill 2010-12-26 10:56
This is one of my favorite writers on writing type of books. I think my favorite advice is on how you can't get attached to a sentence or paragraph. If it doesn't work no matter how cute or perfect, it still has to go to make the novel better.

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