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On Writing

Stephen King · 5 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
The author of The Stand, The Shining, and other great books shares his insights into the craft of writing, offering a breezy, humorous perspective on his own experience as a writer and describing how the inextricable bond between life and writing helped him recover from a near-fatal accident in 1999. Reprint.
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Apr 03, 2012 · shin_lao on C.S. Lewis on Writing
One of the best books you can find on the topic has been written by Stephen King and is called "On Writing".

The first part is a small auto-biography as he states that "to understand writing you must understand what happens in the life of a writer".

The second part is full of clever and useful advices, including ones close to the one in this article.

Even if you don't like the author, you should really read this book if you're serious about writing.

I actually read the book, and found most of the advice (besides the no duh basics like you have to keep writing no matter what) pretty unsurprising, but then I only read it last year after having read a LOT of other books on the topic as well as completed a couple novels and a lot of failed attempts. Perhaps it's good for people newer to the craft but once you get past a certain point I actually would NOT recommend going back and reading it.

Though to be fair at this point the only books on the craft I buy talk about specific topics (Dialogue, description, subtext, etc).

The first part is still entertaining, though.
Another book to read if you like this kind of thing is "Revising Business Prose" by Richard Lanham. In it he shows how to resuscitate business-speak into readable text. Many of his examples could have been taken verbatim from my place of work. I have heard colleagues use "orientate" and "updation" intead of "orient" and "update". Sadly, that is really how some people speak!
Great book for the aspiring writer. Most of it is filler material, but the ~16 pages of real writing advice is worth at least the cover price.

One recommendation that stuck with me is to avoid words ending in "ly". I now make that effort, and the results are an improvement.

> One recommendation that stuck with me is to avoid words ending in "ly". I now make that effort, and the results are an improvement.

For those who are wondering at the rationale behind this: many adverbs end in -ly. "The brown fox quickly ran", "she urgently asked", "he mercilessly ate his salad", etc.

Adverbs should be avoided, because, as danso notes, you must "show, not tell". When the brown fox "quickly" runs, you're telling the reader what happened. Similarly, when she "urgently" asks, you're not showing the reader what's going on.

Instead, you can describe what's happening with better verbs: "the brown fox sprinted after his dinner", "she pleaded for the answer key", "he attacked the tomato in his salad".

That's just one way to do it, of course. You can also describe the action in detail: "After skewering his tomato, Jessie brought it up to his mouth, where it tumbled into his esophagus".

Read Stephen King's "On Writing". It'll change your game, even if you don't write.

As for books on a similar topic I found Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird" both inspiring and enjoyable. Link:
I literally just finished reading that book yesterday, and I can't recommend it enough. It taught me to be a better programmer.
Seconded. Great insights from one of the most prolific authors ever.
Speaking of authors on the subject of productivity, one of the most prolific popular writers in history, Isaac Asimov, said that the key to productivity and avoiding writers block was simply to write every day, no matter what. Asimov's autobiography, memoirs, and letters are absolute goldmines of wisdom. And pretty funny, too.

I recently downloaded King's On Writing in audio book form for my next long drive (I travel full-time, so I drive a lot), in hopes that it would offer similar inspiration. Sounds like I made a good choice.

Also, I think writers have a lot in common with programmers, and that's why there's so much overlap in the sorts of tactics that work for each group.

Dec 30, 2010 · sireat on You Should Self-Publish
While I am not a big fan of Mr. King's fiction, his non-fiction book On Writing is excellent:

He goes into process of writing a book with razor sharp detail.

Maybe you will be as surprised as I was to hear the name Stephen King mentioned in the context of writing advice, but 896 Amazon reviewers can't be wrong:

Stephen King - On Writing:;

This is what Roger Ebert said about the book:

"A lot of people were outraged that he [King] was honored at the National Book Awards, as if a popular writer could not be taken seriously. But after finding that his book On Writing had more useful and observant things to say about the craft than any book since Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, I have gotten over my own snobbery."

I didn't realize this until I read "On Writing" by Stephen King ( An excellent book about the writing process, and even though he talks about writing fiction, it applies to any writing.
The roboticist Marc Raibert also has some good advice on writing.

His work is very related to AnyBot. You've probably seen that funky walking robotic dog. It's mind blowing

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