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Book Review| On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King| Book Review| ReadingOnTheRun

Stephen King is an American author most known for his popular horror fiction books turned blockbusters such as Carrie, IT, The Shining and Misery. If you are an inspiring fiction writer, the likes of Stephen King, Jodi Picoult and Danielle Steel are what you want to study early on. Their commercial success tops out at over 1 billion sales world-wide.

In the year 2000 King published a non-fiction instruction manual of sorts coined, On Writing: A memoir of the craft. In it King narrates pivotal points and lessons in his life that he feels contributed to his writing success. Also, King shares basic writing advice for those looking to share his craft. This read goes well beyond the primary, "Write what you know" council and dives deeper into the motivation behind the craft, necessary elements of writing style and recommendations for rigorous writing routines to get you going.

King doesn't promise to make the reader a great writer (he feels that's impossible, great writers are born not made), but he does give helpful frank guidance on what it takes to become one of the greats...or just better.

Keep reading for a snapshot of the jewels offered in this book.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." ~ Stephen King

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Building a writers toolbox makes hard jobs much easier. A writers tool box should always include these three very basic items (at the least):

1. Vocabulary: This is the bread of writing, the most common tool of all. The key here is to use what you have to your advantage. In other words, you don't need a large vocabulary however you do need to use it in an entertaining way. Your vocabulary will get better as you read and write more often.

2. Grammar: This is the vehicle of communication. King points out, "bad grammar produces bad sentences". Every sentence should contain a noun and a verb, and it's perfectly acceptable if those are the only things present. This basic rule worked for some of those considered the greatest American writers of all time (think Hemingway). And it will work for you.

3. Style: As you become more a more active writer (and reader), you'll find your own style. King shared a few pet peeves of his own to get you started: Avoid passive tense. Steer clear of sentences such as: "That's so cool", "at this point in time", "at the end of the day". Never use unnecessary adverbs.


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Stories and novels consist of three parts which doesn't always include a predetermined plot:

1. Narration: Moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z

2. Description: Creates a sensory reality for the reader

3. Dialogue: Brings characters to life

"...while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one." ~ Stephen King

Stephen King recommends the following books for new/aspiring writers:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Warriner's English Grammar and Composition


Notable/motivational quotes from On Writing by Stephen King:

"Good writing is often letting go of fear and affectation."

"Writing is seduction."

"The sort of strenuous reading and writing program I advocate -four to six hours a day, every day..."

"I lean more heavily on intuition [rather than plot]."


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Happy reading & writing my friends!





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