Stephen King - On Writing and Other Favorites - Review
Success didn't come overnight for the master of macabre, spinner of Science Fiction tales, of high school romance gone bad, of cars that live and breathe, or of dogs and cats who defy their masters. This book, like his tales, runs the distance between an autobiography and a "How-to" manual for writers. Within this manual for writers he shares memories of his own struggle to become a published writer and the rejections he faced along the way.
Not at all tedious like a textbook, On Writing reveals a web of intrigue and mystery combining the elements of style into a running dialog of Stephen King's earliest childhood memories.
On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft
Writing over fifty books is a major accomplishment. To write that many bestsellers defies the odds. Further feats include finishing this book after suffering a near death accident when he was walking along a highway and was struck by a van.
Aspiring writers, who hope to release a literary masterpiece, can learn much from the author whose engaging books captivated millions of readers. His success lends hope that ordinary people can succeed in publishing a best selling novel.
Creepy or Charming?
King's story also provides hope that, despite rejection, if we persist, improve our results and properly tweak our words, we will accomplish that which we seek. The book answers many questions like: How did Stephen King start out? What inspired him to write his tales? How did he survive the horrific and disabling injuries he sustained when he was broadsided by a van?
His resilience and determination is inspiring.
"When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story."— John Gould
The manual answers those questions and shares more that can be helpful in writing our own novel. He gives clues about composing, practicing the art, using our worldly experiences in creating fiction, capturing the moment, creating characters, editing our work without remorse and much more in these 291 pages jam packed with good advice, humor and even some cringe-worthy stories.
In his usual style, employing descriptive prose, he shares the struggles of growing up poor, of working in dead-end factory type jobs, of sibling rivalry and competition, of mistreatment from caregivers, family members and peers. He describes how he learned the perils of plagiarism, of creative buffoonery gone sour, of teacher retaliation, and of being the outcast. He shares common experiences and those beyond the everyday variety: recuperation from devastating, bone crushing injury, during which he maintained the work ethic that forged his ultimate success.
Christine - Bad to the Bone
He states that “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation,” of “writing to the best of our abilities” and choosing the right tools for the job. He challenges the writer to create a toolbox of talent from which we can draw when needed; when our task becomes difficult, our road veers into wilderness and fog impairs our vision. He suggests that if we wish to become a great writer that we must do two things: read a lot and write a lot. He says, “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
Fiction is the truth inside the lie. . ."— Stephen King
Stephen King has been writing stories since he was seven years old. His mother read his first original story, after he gave up copying stories out of the comic books. She provided the feedback that would catapult him into his destined career when she asked, "You didn't copy this one?" He said, no, he hadn't. "She said it was good enough to be in a book." King writes, "Nothing anyone has said to me since has made me feel any happier."
He says, "There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky. . .Your job (as a writer) is to recognize them when they show up."
He believes that an author must continually write to perfect their craft and that it's important to have a set routine and a designated place in which to write.
Blue Jean Music
The Stand and other Favorite King Stories
One of my favorites of his stories made into a television series was "The Stand," a dystopian tale of a man-made virus that nearly ends the world. Those resistant to the germs gather together under the discipleship of "Mother Abagail" in Boulder, Colorado, while the other faction, the no-good doers gather in Las Vegas. A tale of survival, hope, love, strength and betrayal, the inevitable showdown between good and evil leads to the destruction of one side.
Filled with unforgettable characters like Stu Redman (East Texas), played by Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamie Sheriden (The Walking Dude, The Dark Man), Ruby Dee, Adam Storke, Ed Harris, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Ossie Davis, Bill Fagerbakke as Tom Cullin (M-O-O-N, that spells Tom), Ray Walston, Kathy Bates and many others. The movie soundtrack will have you singing, "Baby Can You Dig Your Man" from the first time you hear it. It's a favorite of the devil himself.
The Shawshank Redemption
"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" is a novella by Stephen King turned into a full length movie starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. One of the top rented films of 1995, before On-Demand and Netflix, this film captures the hope that those innocently convicted will ultimately gain freedom.
Stephen Edwin King was born in Portland, Maine in September of 1947. One of two children born to Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King, he was the younger brother in a financially struggling family dynamic. His father, Donald and his mother separated when the boys were toddlers, living in Fort Wayne, Indiana for a while near his father's family before his mother moved them to Durham where she took care of her aging parents.
Some of Stephen King's earliest memories were forged at the farm of his maternal grandparents. He tells the story of his earliest experience with excruciating pain caused when he dropped a cinder block on his foot after being stung by a wasp. He shares nightmarish stories of an abusive babysitter. He recalls events in the woods that left him suffering an unimaginable case of poison ivy. He writes about his trips to the doctor who stuck needles in his ears to relieve inflammation. It's no wonder he never runs out of squeamish material on which to write.
Early in life he developed an empathy for the underdog, the victims of bullies, those with little strength to fight back. His stories reveal the best and worst in mankind starting in 1974, when his manuscript for Carrie catapulted him into a new world where writing would become his main activity.
At the time it was written, he was employed as an English teacher earning sixty-four hundred dollars per year after quitting his job at the laundry. He and his wife lived in a double wide mobile home where she helped support the family with a job at Dunkin' Donuts.They were too poor to afford a telephone. At one point, he was so discouraged by his minimal success at submitting crime stories to the men's magazines, he threw away his work. Tabitha rescued the manuscript from the trash can, read it and provide the encouragement that prompted him to continue writing the rest of the story.
"You've got something here," she said. "I really think you do."
Since those early difficult times, King has penned over fifty-nine fiction novels, ten story collections, five non-fiction books and many other works that have turned into movies and TV series. His many awards include multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, and Bram Stoker Awards among many others.
Stephen King’s memoir is memorable, provides useful examples, cautionary admonitions and is pure fun reading. It’s a good story, which he explains is what book buyers are looking to “take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.” He has successfully used every tool in his toolbox in writing this novel.
© 2018 Peg Cole