Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: On Writing by Stephen King

Author: Stephen King
Series: None
Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography
Release Date: June 25, 2002
Format: Print
My Rating: 4 Stars
Summary From Goodreads: 
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Thoughts
King presents his memoir, On Writing, using a unique mixture of instruction, inspiration, and story-telling. On Writing is not just for writers, but also for fans of King's other works and those interested in the literary world.
On Writing contains four different sections: “C.V.,” “Toolbox,” “On Writing,” and “On Living.” Each part discusses different topics from grammar to characters. “C.V,” the first section, is largely composed of autobiography in the memoir. King begins by telling stories of his childhood, continuing to his high school and college life that mark his encounters with writing. Each chapter includes a different story. King uses anecdotes through the novel to tie in advice and lessons from his personal experiences, which also keeps the reader engaged. For example, chapter 20 recounts King’s time writing for the school newspaper. He gives an excerpt of his article and the corrections from the editor. King uses this scene to restate a piece of advice his editor gave him, to “write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open,” which he continuously refers to throughout the memoir.

The next part is the shortest of all. Titled “Toolbox,” it aptly reflects the content of the section. Kings begins with another anecdote, this time about his uncle, a carpenter, and his toolbox. He uses this background to suggest the idea that to write to the best of your ability, you should have a toolbox ready. Common tools such as vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure belong on top, while verb tenses and adverbs come next, followed by mechanics and paragraph structure, then the length of the novel, creating four different layers of the toolbox. King advises to keep it simple with common vocabulary and utilize sentence fragments.

“On Writing,” section three, emphasizes the importance of practice by both reading and writing frequently. “On Writing” goes in depth about narration, description, dialogue, characters, pacing, and plot, along with the use of rhetorical strategies and their effects. While King discusses the use of symbolism and other literary devices, he also uses his own rhetorical strategies of metaphors and similes.
King compares the beginning of a novel to the discovery of a fossil. Referring back to the toolbox, plot is like a writer’s jackhammer. It will certainly free the fossil, but also break pieces in the process. Rather than let the plot drive the story, King advises to let the characters and situation lead instead.

The last section, “On Living,” reverts back to the autobiography aspect of the memoir in both past and present tense. “On Living” describes King’s experience of writing On Writing along with how writing affected his life after his nearly fatal car accident.

Overall, On Writing is an informative memoir about the craft of writing that weaves advice and storytelling into an entertaining and interesting read.

Stephen King

Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He made his first professional short story sale in 1967 to Startling Mystery Stories. In the fall of 1973, he began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co., accepted the novel Carrie for publication, providing him the means to leave teaching and write full-time. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world's most successful writers.

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