A Book Review for Stephen King’s “On Writing”

“On Writing” was an enjoyable read. I originally purchased the book to read to improve my writing style without considering its entire title “… A Memoir of the Craft”. Even though King explains life experiences from his childhood to near present time, he still includes a great deal of positive advice for writing. Anyone struggling with writing or open to some inspirational thought will benefit from reading “On Writing”.

One reason the book, and Stephen King himself, gives me so much inspiration is the notion of writing about 1,400 words a day or more. This is a far easier idea than trying to set aside a 6-hour time slot to write as much as possible, and way easier than trying to write out an entire project only pausing when necessary. Producing a small amount of work by often habit is more feasible to justify and stay motivated with.

Another notion that I find inspiring is the idea of writing without too much plotting. I agree with King on this one -even if one plots out an entire story or novel, once one writes it out they generally change what goes on (or not) as you write it. If plotting with an outline helps you, go for it. If simply writing without too much thought of the story before you come up with it is the way you write best, go with that. Do what works for you, in other words, even if you’ve heard it many times before.

The next thing I like about King’s advice on writing was to not spend too much time with technique. I enjoy utilizing as much grammar technique as possible, however I do not always adhere to grammar rules as strictly as I would like. Use of the passive voice, colloquialisms, ect. many times are found in my rough drafts. I do not let these things keep me from the story, though, and King reminds us of what is most important when writing fiction. The story.

Many people who have written about “On Writing” mention Mr. King’s near death accident. The story is in the end of the book. He was hit by a vehicle while on a walk one day, nearly died, and was only half through with “On Writing”. Our hearts go out to Stephen King when we hear of his regaining of health after having most of his body shattered and finishing his memoir on writing. Long live the King, indeed.

King mentions his struggles as a young writer such as struggling to pay bills, even when he became an English teacher. Who would have ever guessed that the world’s most famous and respected horror author would be a down-to-Earth family man? I am not sure, however I have more respect for him after reading his honest accounts of his love for his wife, family, and writing. I also found his ideas on drug abuse inspiring. He declares that while many users may think that use helps their creativity, people write just as well without stimulants or sedatives or both. I agree. I may drink a coffee or vape sometimes, however I find participating in creative writing is best without the use of unhealthy substances. I am glad he decided to clean up his life and live in a healthy way, that he could say people write just as splendidly without stimulants/downers or other temptations.

To further explore reasons I liked “On Writing”, I must note that King mentions telepathy. We are not alone as humans; any religion considers the idea. He suggests good practices for choosing a good place to write and being okay with ‘listening’ while writing. He also mentions that he kept this book slim and tried to exercise some form of concision with his prose. In my opinion, he did an awesome job. I was able to read a few pages at night before going to bed and had the book finished, paying attention to its every word, in about 40 days (if I can do it, so can you). King mentions a Mississippi scribbler, John Grisham, as being found by his agent, Bill who set King up with Double Day many years ago. Many people think that part of what makes Grisham such a great author has to do with the ease in which we can read his work. I agree and think “On Writing” can be easily read.

“On Writing” gives references to a few dozen authors/books with explanations of their style and why to read them or how to compare them to what we may decide to write. King helps us consider what we are after with our writing and how to achieve success. He also includes two extensive book lists in the end of the version I read.

Early in the book, he mentions going to the movies and considering what was going on in the movie, as well as what could have happened to make the story even crazier or better. I think most people have a pretty creative mind, however part of King’s unique genius, other than his work ethic, is his ability to consider a good story and either stick with it or spice it up a little.

As far as real grammar lessons go, there are not many in “On Writing”. King does mention”Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition”, as well as Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”. He advises a cautious study of these texts, yet mentions that once you have learned enough grammar to write well, there is no need to waste your time with studying too much grammar. By saying this, he reminds us that the story itself is what is most important.

The first part of the book inspired my writing a tale upon reading a few things about Stephen King’s childhood. I put the book down and wrote out an outline, and wrote the story the next day. You can read it here. I also wrote down an outline for a novel with a protagonist and a bunch of monsters, however it may be a while before I get to writing it out, as I am working on some other works of fiction, currently. I’ve kept the outline with a few other novel ideas, nonetheless.

I conclusion I do recommend Stephen King’s book, “On Writing”, to be read by most authors, fans, and readers. It won’t give you nightmares, and though it is no new lesson in English, it will definitely inspire you as a fiction author. Stephen King spent a lifetime working hard and stayed dedicated to his goals as a family man and a writer. He did what was best for him and we should, too, so our reading audience will love and enjoy our work as creative artists and writing masters. What more could we ask for? I hope you enjoy reading “On Writing” as much as I and others have. As said by “Entertainment Weekly”, “Long live the King.”

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Ned’s Reply

Ned’s Reply

One time, a young boy named Ned sat across from his grandfather in a park.   It was on a Saturday.  He could see his grandfather for doing well in school for the week, as he had many times before.  All was going well.  The two had their game going fine – pieces were about to be taken from the board, as usual.  It was towards the end of August; Ned seemed to have the blues.

His grandfather looked over to him, thinking he would cheer him up.  Ned knew he was going to talk and did not really have that much warning.  He did not know what was going to be said.  “So, has your mother taken you back-to-school shopping?” asked his grandfather.  “I knew you were going to ask that!” said Ned, “Yes, she did.  As usual, it was a most exciting day.”

“Did you accomplish any difficult feet or tricky, hard-to-do shenanigans?”

“Have you been speaking with my mother?”

“I have not spoken with her in over two weeks.”

“Are you telling the truth?”

“Yes”

“We went to the store and she said she only had a certain amount to spend on school supplies.  I had a list to fulfill from school; it took about 55% of my spending limit up.  I thought I was in the clear, the good little boy giving.  I would easily get this over with, and my mother would be able to keep the rest of her decided amount.”

“So?  What happened?”

The two both moved a piece on the board; Ned tried to plan a good exchange-attack and king-trap sequence.

“I saw it.”

“What did you see?”

“I had examined every pen and pencil, notepad and other inch of the store.  It was near the register on the way out… a calligrapher’s ink and pen set, complete with a wooden storage box and seven interchangeable pen heads.  It contained a black ink bottle as well as a bottle of dark indigo blue ink derived from a rare Australian fern.”

“Wow.”

“Wow was right.  I could have grabbed it and ran; they saw me see it, albeit.”

“What did you do?”

“I decided to let her decide.  I said, ‘I will do anything you say.  What must I do to have it?’  ‘You had better come up with a dandy chore list,’ she said.  I had to think quick and hard…  ‘What if I mow the neighbor’s yard every other Sunday afternoon for two months or four times?’ I pleaded.  She balanced her checkbook and said it would be fine.”

“So you got the calligrapher’s set?”

“That I did, and I have already mowed Mr. Nabrowski’s yard one time, three times to go.”

“Have you written anything?”

“Yes, I wrote a 112 line poem about a dove who visited Shakespeare in spirit for conversation.  I figured out the characters in pencil and then wrote the poem out with both black and blue ink, depending on the characters’ dialogue.  The dove drinks a gentle trickle of his blood to come back to life, flies away.”

“Can I see it?”

“The bird?”

“The poem, silly.”

“Do you enjoy mowing?”

Neds grandfather just looked at him.

“I am sorry, I plan to submit the poem to a contest hoping the penmanship can be noted.  I will photocopy a copy of it for you.”

“What if I want to mow?”

“You know you are more than welcome to come and help me.  Checkmate.”

Ned won the game.  Ned’s mother pulled up.  Ned got into the car.  They drove away waving goodbye as always.  Ned’s grandfather put the chess pieces up as always, in tears.

 

– angry again m-death video link –

Dream Teacher

Dream Teacher

Two college students were having a conversation on a bench outside of one of their professor’s office.  “If you could spend a few months with any historical figure known to man, who would it be?” asked Becky, she was deep in thought.  “I am not sure,” answered Calvin, “I study a lot, however I think I would enjoy learning something to do with a hobby.”

“A hobby?” asked Becky, “What do you mean; are you going to go with ‘Monet’ or someone?”  “No,” said Calvin, “I would choose the famous mathematician Pythagoras.”  “I see – you want to get to the bottom of understanding more about math,” said Becky, trying to back up her friend, Calvin, known by others on campus as someone who was  a good choice for a study partner.  He made good grades.

“No,” said Calvin, “I chose him out of many people, because of an interesting historical fact I read about him two days ago.”  “Oh?” said Becky.  “Did you know that this whole idea of an eight-note ‘octave’ came from him?  He alone devised the idea with metal strings and, to this very day, we as humans compose music according to his real-life experimentation with wires.  If I could go back in time, I would spend a year with him; we would make a handmade baby-grand piano.  I could teach him ‘Jingle Bells’ – I could learn from him.”

“Wow,” said Becky, as their professor was coming up the wooden stairway, “I think I would have gone with Martha Stewart.”  Calvin looked over to her; she blushed.  “Nice choice,” said Calvin.  He looked to the ground and thought, “Could she be the one?”