Wednesday, August 3, 2011

On Writing by Steven King

This is a fabulous collection of a lifetime's worth of writing wisdom. Steven King is engaging and funny in a way none of my writing teachers ever were. On Writing will have a permanent place in the bookshelf beside my desk.

. . . books are a uniquely portable magic. pg104

I have my own dislikes - I believe that anyone using the phrase "That's so cool" should have to stand in a corner and that those using the far more odious phrases "at this point in time" and "at the end of the day" should be sent to bed without supper (or writing paper, for that matter). pg122

Verbs come in two types, active and passive. With an active verb, the subject of the sentence is doing something. With the passive verb, something is being done to the subject of the sentence. The subject is just letting it happen. You should avoid the passive tense. I'm not the only one who says so; you can find the same advice in The Elements of Style. pg122

Two pages of the passive voice - just about any business document ever written, in other words, not to mention reams of bad fiction - make me want to scream. It's weak, it's circuitous, and it's frequently tortuous, as well. pg 123

The adverb is not your friend. pg124

Someone out there is now accusing me of being tiresome and anal-retentive. I deny it. I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's -GASP!!- too late. pg125

Strunk and White offer the best tools (and the best rules) you could hope for, describing them simply and clearly. They are offered with a refreshing strictness, beginning with the rule on how to form possessives: you always add 's, even when the word you're modifying ends in s. pg129

Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story . . . to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. pg134

Reading is the creative center of the writer's life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books - of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone's favorite, the john. pg148

Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's. When it comes to actually puling this off, the writer is much more fortunate than the filmmaker, who is almost always doomed to show too much . . . pg175

Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then get on with your story. pg180.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

About 5 years ago I listened to the audio version of this one (read by King). I really enjoyed it.

The Original Mother Load said...

This is one of my all time favorite books. His other book on writing, "Danse Macabre" is not as...friendly, personal.

King can be a hit or miss in his novels but this is a true hit, IMHO.

I recently bought another copy of this since I "loaned" my original to my eldest son and haven't seen it again. :-)

Trish said...

diane - I would imagine the audio version would be fun to listen to also. He's got such a friendly conversational tone in the book.

mother load - I read and loved all his early works years ago but didn't keep up after my kids were born. I don't know . . . either his stories got too intense, or I became too sensitive in my delicate maternal state lol. But now that my kids are grown I thought I'd revisit him.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Oooh I love it. This is quickly going on my Wishlist.

Trish said...

It's a keeper! Not only for writers but readers as well. He makes quite a few references to other books and authors.

Karen said...

I loved this book. One of my favourites by King.