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On Writing by Stephen King (Groups : Writer's Club : Forum : Recent Literature Styles : On Writing by Stephen King) Locked
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Dec 8 2008, 2:30am Anchor

Yes, the book was published in 2000, and if you look at the progression of time and evolution of art in the way of video games, 8 years is a huge gap, but in the world of literature that is still within acceptable grasp as "recent". Anyhow, now that I've defined my own rules by bending them, I'll get to the point.

Stephen King's book "On Writing" is an amazing piece, especially for unpublished beginners. It uses a combination of personal stories and writing directed lectures (while remaining very casual, perhaps too casual even) to sum up the meat of the book. The first section and perhaps the biggest is a series of short stories from his childhood, ranging from his first memories of dropping a cinder block on his foot to his success over addiction. These stories help to understand Stephen better, and many of them carry a significant moral that is sometimes only expressed later (during the lecture section). All of his stories are there for a purpose, perhaps with the exception of his story about poison ivy, that was probably just in their for kicks. The section of the book that is actually focused directly on writing is simple and often to the point. Occasionally Stephen goes off on metaphors that last for pages at a time, but they successfully convey their ideas. Also, Stephen regularly mentions The Elements of Style, so if you go to the book store to pick up On Writing, you might want to pick up The Elements of Style too. The later portion of the book talks about how he recovered from a car accident that occurred during the making of the book, and how writing helped him get through it. The final section shows an early hand edited draft of 1408, and then part of the final draft; Stephen then explains why each edit was done, but if you read the 250 pages prior, all edits should be easily understood.

I hope my ramblings have helped persuade you to buy this book, it was worth the money for me, and I'm sure I will read it many times in the future.

-Mclogenog

Dec 30 2008, 5:57am Anchor

Interesting, I wonder what King's motivation was to write this book. I have never been a fan, even though there were some good stories written by him, I just don't like horror, when it's personified. Running Man was an ok film, though I huess not the typical King story.

History shows there are two types of writers: the literary trendsetters, which make a breakthrough with their writing and determine their societies writing/reading culture to a large extends. And there are intellectual writers, who either try to create new artforms and styles through writing (Joyce), or who grasp internally new concepts of writing and make them their own (e.g. Shakespeare). The latter named types become the first of writing schools build in their name and their "inventions" become conventions in writing, after their time.

Even though notable, King will be forgotten in very little time and he may have contributed to writing as part of our social culture, but not to writing as an artform. There are probably things we can learn from him, but I really don't need to know for myself, because I don't live by anyone's standards but my own. This being said, shows how literature is also a personal decision to follow rules and guidelines from the start, or break them all the time and return to those you can't get rid of after all. I think no one but oneself can teach one to write. Writers who think other writers can pass on their theories in any other form than their novels, don't understand the truth behind fiction.
It's cool to be able to read some version changes and all of that. My experience shows me that you need a lot of re-writes anyway, whatever you are writing. I don't go so much by lists of what I edited, but by knowledge of what my changes afflict. For when you change a detail at the end of the story, you'll most likely get to rewrite the entire thing.

Dec 30 2008, 1:09pm Anchor

It is interesting, because Asimov said that he couldn't bring himself to rewrite. Let me see if I can find that essay.

"...More important was the fact that I had never learned about revisions. My routine was (and still is) to write a story in first draft as fast as I can. Then I go over it and correct errors in spelling, grammar, and word order. Then I perpare my second draft, making minor changes as I go and as they occur to me. My second draft is my final draft. No more changes except under direct editorial order and then with rebellion in my heart." -Isaac Asimov (Writing Science Ficion & Fantasy)

As you said, every author has his/her own methods and should not force the style of other authors upon themself, however it is beneficial to learn what makes individual authors tick and how that improves their writing.

Jan 6 2009, 6:59am Anchor

Um, yeah that's personal freedom - and Asimov had an editor and very good translator, who actually helped made his fame. I guess, if you are a novelist and sell a lot of books you can call it your stlye of writing. P.K. Dick for example wrote many stories without proper revision, and it shows. Yet, if some shady magazine buys your stuff and it doesn't matter if there are errors in it, why should you care?

My personal reason for many revisions is that I give my stories to highly skilled and trained people to read and don't want to make a fool of myself. Of course you will always made revisions based on a change in the storyline - those are the hardest, because changing one thing can change many others in a story.

If you plan to write professionally (meaning to collaborate with other people, e.g. directors) get ready for revisions. I think the most I ever did was about twenty for a project, which didn't get made in the end. About 80% of the shit you write will never be produced, but you have to write outlines, treatments, etc. for them anyway. It's fustrating, if you like your work, to see it go by unnoticed, but that doesn't mean you are bad. It just means someone didn't plan right and you are the final ass to invest his time to show just that. The stupid shit I had to write you couldn't imagine. If you go into advertisment, don't expect to find smart people there - expect just the opposite.

I'd like to become a writer/director, because then I can have the most control over my work. However that is no small feat and I don't really think it can happen in my lifetime. To be able to live of writing would be completely sufficient for me.

Edited by: SinKing

Jan 7 2009, 12:19am Anchor

I agree that revision is quite important (I usually go through 10 revisions per paper). I was merely stating the various perspectives on ideas and methods. I've also been reading throug The Elements of Style and have found it as a great editing tool.

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