1. Shadywood
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    Shadywood Member

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    Stephen King's "On Writing"

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Shadywood, Apr 12, 2013.

    I'm sure this has been discussed before by those who have been here awhile, but I just finished this book and found it so inspiring! I just felt his approach was so logical and encouraging. I also didn't know his history and while I have never read him (I can't do his genre), it is amazing how far he has come from such humble beginnings as a writer. I admired his persistence and commitment. Anyone else find some good tidbits for the book? Anyone not like it?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, the most valuable part of On Writing is the autobiographical section. What King has to say about the actual craft of writing is, to me, pretty basic and not very useful. His life story is inspiring, but his thoughts on the writing of fiction are not, at least for me.

    The book that inspires me most, from the point of view of craft, is The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner. Another inspiring book of his is On Becoming a Novelist.
     
  3. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Read Bag of Bones. He throws in some interesting writing stuff in that one: the main character is a writer.
    Another book to look into is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lemott.
     
  4. richardclayton53
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    richardclayton53 Member

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    I LOVE On Writing, it is one of my favourite books! Although it does help that i am a MASSIVE King fan. I love his no frills, no nonsense approach to writing, which i strive to emulate in my stories. I'd say King and Joe Abercrombie are the biggest influences to the type of writing that i like to write. :)
     
  5. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I found Elements of Style (one of the most invaluable writing aids one can find) through On Writing. And I enjoyed the read on many levels because I like King's style. There was also some usefull stuff of his own in the book.
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    terribly disappointed in On Writing. I expect a dummy's guide but got his life story - nothing rushed me to work

    maybe I need to go back and re-open it
     
  7. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    I loved the book. Never ready anything else by King though, but I thought On Writing was an excellent book in many ways. I had expected a step by step guide on how to write, but was positively surprised when it turned out he weaved all these little tips and tricks to writing into his life story so beautifully.
     
  8. Quille
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    Quille Senior Member

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    The autobiographical part of On Writing has helped me get back to the page more than once and is one of the books I keep on my desk. I have a lot of respect for Stephen King.

    I've read the Tower series and most of the ancillary books like Insomnia because I see them as dark fantasy rather than horror. But I got halfway through the first story in Full Dark, No Stars and set it aside. Despite or maybe because I know what's coming, I got spooked and decided it wasn't the right time to read it. One of these days, I will take the story apart and see why it affected me that way.
     
  9. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Elements of Style should be on every writers shelf next to their favorite 6 or 7 dictionaries and J. I. Rodale's Synonym Finder.




    *though, later printings leave out the bit on semicolons: interesting isn't it?
     
  10. Shadywood
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    Shadywood Member

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    Great suggestions! Thanks! I think I need to pick up Elements of Style, for sure.

    I found some of the autobiographical part (particularly at the beginning) a little dull, but that was mostly because I wanted to get to the good stuff. I agree his approach was a bit basic, but I think a lot of writers need to hear that. Simplification is so key!
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My favorite book on writing was not a "how to", but rather a description of one writer's experience. It was My Lost Mexico, James A. Michener's description of how he began, then put aside for 30 years, then rediscovered his novel, Mexico. Having read about 2/3 of all his works (most of them historical novels), I felt like I actually got a glimpse inside his writing as well as the publishing process. It helped that Mexico is one of my favorite Michener novels.
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This. Two times this. As a 'help' book On Writing is pretty pedestrian and barely interesting at the best of times. Most of his tips are also pretty meaningless, especally considering in the book be basically admits he doesn't know how to redraft.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The Elements of Style isn't really a book for writers. It's a book for non-writers who sometimes have to write. If your specialty is wildlife biology or Celtic archaeology or infra-red astronomy or stamp collecting or vintage auto racing or any of a million other disciplines, and you have to write books and journal articles about it, you want Strunk and White on your shelf. But if you're a writer, someone for whom the craft of writing is foremost, Strunk and White may be more of a hindrance than a help. I think a writer should read and understand Strunk and White, then give it away to some college-bound kid or prop up a table leg with it or wrap fish with it or find some other good and noble purpose for it. A writer should have internalized everything Strunk and White has to teach, and should proceed from there.

    I have two books in my shelf that I think are better for writers: Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte, and Notes Toward a New Rhetoric by Francis Christensen and Bonniejean Christensen. John Gardner's works on writing have useful and inspiring comments on style as well.

    However, if you've moved beyond Strunk and White, the best way to improve the art of your prose is to study the writers who have used language exquisitely. James Joyce, Anthony Burgess, Vladimir Nabokov, Joan Didion, William Gass, and many others have written brilliantly after having left Strunk and White in the dust.
     
  14. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yes, I have given many of them away. I have five in fact, waiting as I type this, to be given away.
     
  15. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    Which ones and can I have them (only half joking)?
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Then shipping will cost more than the book will. Just look through any used book store: they're everywhere. Probably for less than two bucks. Or, a pound...or, whatever the weight of exchange is in your stretch of the woods. ;-P
     
  17. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    I agree, and I'm relieved I'm not the only one who thinks this way. A lot of people seem to treat Strunk & White as gospel for any kind of writing - whereas it actually seems more geared towards helping people express themselves clearly in essays or articles. They're useful guidelines, but sticking to them rigidly while writing fiction (for example) doesn't strike me as necessary or helpful.
     
  18. JamesB
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    JamesB Member

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    When I first got back into writing, I read a few books on the subject. Most of them explained in detail how to structure the plot in outlines from start to finish, right down to what each chapter and their subchapters would be about. These people sounded like they knew what they were talking about and this approach probably works for them. For me, I found this to be very frustrating and ended up discouraged for months. I'm just not programmed that way. I almost didn't start writing.

    When I read "On Writing" I felt like a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders. Taking a basic idea and expounding on it as you write, letting your muse direct where the story is going to end up made more sense to me. Now, without feeling that I need to structure every aspect before I even begin writing the first words, I'm five chapters into my novel.

    King stated, and I'm paraphrasing, that he could be more than halfway through writing a book, and he doesn't usually know where or how it's going to end. Since his writing relies on suspense, and so does mine, that seemed to be the best approach. His theory is that if he doesn't even know how the story is going to end when he's almost done with it, nobody else will know either. He builds his characters in much the same way throughout the stories that he tells.

    He said, "just write" and you'll start to hear the muse talking to you. Well, I did that and now I can't get it to shut up. My friends cant even talk to me anymore without me saying "huh....what did you say?" My mind is always preoccupied with my story now. I think thats awesome.

    Stephen Kings book "On Writing" is an excellent book.
     
  19. Caramello Koala
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    Caramello Koala Member

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    I recently finished 'On Writing' and really enjoyed it. I think his advice is sound, even if you already knew a lot of it before. His metaphor for the creative process being likened to that of digging up a fossil is something that resonates with me, as I find that my writing is rarely consciously processed or thought about, but rather pours through me when I enter the 'zone'. It's sort of a Jungian, Collective Unconscious type concept, where every idea exists in some sort of shared cosmic vacuum, and we are merely tapping into it. Thanks for the book suggestions, will check some of those out for sure!
     
  20. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    (Old post but oh well...)

    I agree wholeheartedly: Elements of Style shouldn't be followed word for word, or you'll likely produce stale material, but I find it invaluable regardless because, for the life of me, I still can't remember everything in it and every now and then have to consult the book on one issue or another, then decide whether I follow its guidelines or deviate from them in the name of Art.

    Thanks for the suggestions though, I'll definitely check them out.
     

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