Book Reviews

Shane P. Carr

2001, Shane P. Carr

Issue #1: 01/01/01

Feature Articles
Making Histories
By J.S. Burke
Women and Childbearing 
in Fantasy

By Bryn Neuenschwander
Matching Your Money to Your World 
By Ron Brown
Capturing Time for the Muse
By Vicki McElfresh
In Praise of Praise:
A Second Look at Critiquing

By Lazette Gifford
Building a Better Beast
By Sarah Jane Elliott
State of the Horror Genre
By Ron Brown
Poetry and Everyday  Life
By Jennifer St. Clair Bush
Your Characters Are 
Not Puppets

By Anne M. Marble
Science Fiction: 
Are We Going Somewhere 

By Bob Billing
Stage & Screen: 
The Promise of Premise
By Robin Catesby
Suspense & Mystery:
The Motives of Villains 
and Heroes in Suspense Fiction
By Shane P. Carr
Young Adult & Children:
The Gulf
By Justin Stanchfield
Young Writer's Scene:
Five Practical Tips for Young Writers
By Beth Adele Long
Book Reviews
Web Site Reviews
How Critique Circles Work
By Jim Mills
Doggerel Contest Winner
News from Forward Motion

Welcome to Holly Lisle’s Vision Book Reviews. It is here that you, the aspiring author, will come to find the latest and best books on writing technique, genre writing, and manuscript submission, as well as author memoirs and other books for writers. 


This month we are proud to bring you a review of a book that gives an honest, heartfelt look into the life of a writer, from his impoverished start to his phenomenal bestseller status.   The book is ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King.

I have been a fan of Mr. King’s for quite some time and found he is an author who has the gift of mesmerizing his readers. When I found out he was writing a book on his writing techniques compiled with a memoir on his life as a writer, I was salivating with anticipation. Now, some readers may be quick to discard Stephen King as a horror writer, but if they would only take a look at his full body of work, they would surely be impressed. ‘On Writing’ gives you a look into how this best-selling author defied the odds and overcame poverty, alcohol abuse, rejection, and heartache to achieve his present status.

The book opens with King’s childhood and thirst for reading and writing. It offers a look at King’s earliest attempts to craft fiction on notebook paper, stapling it together and selling it to friends and relatives. King reveals his relationship with his mother and a horrifying yet humorous trip to the dentist as well as the things that scared him as a child. We see how his relationships with family and friends influenced his work and gave him a rich tapestry for creating his characters in later novels.

Readers watch as Mr. King takes form as an author. We learn how he dealt with his first rejection notice, as well as how he made use of advice given to him by mentors and rivals.  We watch as King loses his job, only to come home and find a letter stating a publisher wishes to buy his novel Carrie. We share the joy of the first real sale and how the first advance is spent (on overdue bills and food). We share King’s excitement of learning he has reached bestseller status for the first time. 

Later we watch as King falls prey to the demons of alcoholism and battles the odds with the support of his wife. Mr. King opens his soul to his readers in a brutally honest look at a writer’s life and the hurdles that can easily become pitfalls for aspiring writers or, with dedication and hard work, can be overcome.

In the second section of the book, aptly called ‘The Toolbox,' readers get advice on writing techniques and grammar usage. King gives the Do’s and Don’ts of fiction writing and explains what techniques work and why. He offers readers first draft samples of some of his work so that readers can see even best-selling authors start out with mistakes and need revisions. He discusses what to expect from agents and publishers as well as how to increase your chances at publication. King then offers a few exercises for readers to try.

The book closes with a first-hand account of the accident Mr. King was involved in last year, in which he was struck by a vehicle and injured badly. Opening himself to the readers, he reveals the thoughts and feelings that went through his mind at that time. Combining humor and some strong emotion, King shows a side of himself that few of his readers have ever seen. We get a detailed account of King’s road to recovery, his battle with his own fears, and a struggle to overcome writer’s block. King also hints at what his readers should expect next from him as a writer and what he, as an author, looks forward to.

I’d recommend that, if you are a fan of Stephen King or and aspiring fiction writer, you read  On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’. It is one of the few books that will give you that inside look at a writer’s life and the hurdles that must be overcome.

‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ By Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner   ISBN: 0-684-85352-3     

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