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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Cover

ISBN13: 9780684853529
ISBN10: 0684853523
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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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.

Tabby spent a couple of hours putting things together, and that afternoon at four o'clock she rolled me out through the kitchen and down the newly installed wheelchair ramp into the back hall. She had made me a wonderful little nest there: laptop and printer connected side by side, table lamp, manuscript (with my notes from the month before placed neatly on top), pens, reference materials. Standing on the corner of the desk was a framed picture of our younger son, which she had taken earlier that summer.

"Is it all right?" she asked.

"It's gorgeous," I said, and hugged her. It was gorgeous. So is she.

The former Tabitha Spruce of Oldtown, Maine, knows when I'm working too hard, but she also knows that sometimes its the work that bails me out. She got me positioned at the table, kissed me on the temple, and then left me there to find out if I had anything left to say. It turned out I did.

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King

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Linda Shelnutt, April 15, 2006 (view all comments by Linda Shelnutt)
Riding Right Brain Chaos. Honed, Heavy Horror

What admire most about this author, which was evident in this book is his regenerating honesty, his uncanny originality, and his demand of himself to toss reader boredom into a black hole and perform, within his printed words, 24/7 without fail. Also love the way he sincerely and humbly exposed his respect for his wife.

Leave it to King, The Master, to write this semi-autobiographical expose on authorship craft in a more intriguingly unique organizational setup than anyone else could conjure or dare. Leave it to Him to force (or else) a (sort of) "how to" book into mesmerizing entertainment, to step into the job with a horrific grab about a kid suffering ear drum puncture, and to coerce an anomaly of styles and content to coalesce into a gestalt of genius which WORKS, period.

How can a book on writing be riveting??

King includes only those salient parts of his personal history which have contributed to his writing career. He includes only the necessary elements to "teach" how to spark and stir creative fires. He includes only the necessary keys to his success (amazingly, he does know what those keys are).
I was impressed with King's exposure of his method of writing from a SITUATION rather than from a precise PLOT outline; I still find myself chewing on that daring technique (though I do still appreciate a strongly plotted story).


What I believe On Writing has exposed better than many writing ?how to? books is tapping into the Right Brain. As I?ve observed the styles of many authors of novels, they each seem to be almost ?designed? by DNA to work in different precise balances of Right/Left Brain. The Left Brain wants steps, plots, outlines, plans and structure to be elaborately perfect prior to that leap into the ozone. The pure Right Brain wants only the chaos of riding a storm of the absolute unknown, describing it as it explodes into the presence of present time, constantly changing, churning. That, my dears, is horror itself. And fun. That?s the fountainhead.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780684853529
Author:
King, Stephen
Publisher:
Scribner
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Biography
Subject:
Authorship
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing - Genre Fiction
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
Horror tales
Subject:
Family/Interpersonal Memoir
Subject:
King, stephen, 1947-
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing - General
Subject:
General Language Arts & Disciplines
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Copyright:
Series Volume:
106-126
Publication Date:
October 2000
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
8.44 x 5.5 in 16.1 oz
Age Level:
General Language Arts & Disciplines

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Related Subjects

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Reference » Writing » General

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Used Book Club Hardcover
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$9.50 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780684853529 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Long live the King" hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. 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.
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