Review of On Writing

This week, I’m reviewing Stephen King‘s book, On Writing291 pages filled with his thoughts about writing, examples of both good and bad writing, and a short memoir.

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“Writing did not save my life … but it has continued to do what it has always done: it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place.”

Synopsis:

This book is divided into five major sections with three short forwards and three sections labeled “And Furthermore.” The first section, called “C.V.” is a brief memoir and gives the reader a pretty good understanding of what made him a writer. This was perhaps the most intriguing section because I really liked learning about his life. The second section “What Writing Is” explains how King believes that writing is like telepathy. In section three, “Toolbox,” King tells young writers how to build their toolbox, with vocabulary and grammar, for instance. Section four, perhaps the longest, “On Writing,” tells the reader everything King knows about writing. The last section, “On Living: A Postscript,” is about King’s accident in 1999.

Ideas that will help me with my writing:

King says that writing a story is like escalating a fossil and I think this will help me get away from my need to plan everything and, instead, just see what the fossil looks like. King also writes about writing stories that are just “what if” questions. I want to take this idea and use it to help me write. I think this will help with my writing because I’ll focus less on plot and more on characters and setting and how that shapes the story. I’m working on getting all of my work into active voice, like King says and also on avoiding adverbs especially in attributions.

My overall impression:

Overall, I really liked this book and I think that King’s comparison between a raw story and a fossil has definitely helped me in the way I view fiction.

“Try any goddam thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, toss it. Toss it even if you love it. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once said, ‘Murder your darlings,’ and he was right.”

I love this quote because I feel like experimenting in writing can be difficult but if you do it without worrying whether or not it’ll work, you can have more fun with it.

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This Week I’m Reading…

A Stephen King book! On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is very hard to put down. I actually read the 101 pages that I’ve read of it in one sitting! Granted, this isn’t terribly atypical of me (I read the entire 655 pages of Inkspell by Cornelia Funke in two days back in middle school).

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I love this book so far although I’ve only read the section titled “C.V.” which is a memoir. He talks about everything from his childhood and constant doctor’s visits when he was 6 to the day he met his wife and even when he found out that Carrie’s paperback rights had sold for $400,000. There’s a lot that I didn’t know about him and I can’t wait to continue reading. One thing he said that I found interesting is

“put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” – Stephen King

I think that, by saying that life isn’t a support-system for art, he’s saying that art is what makes life livable. I completely agree with this because I love art, whether it be writing, painting, photography, theater, dance, or anything else and I know that my life wouldn’t be the same if I couldn’t experience or create art myself. Life wouldn’t be nearly as fun without art.

I’m also reading a book by Patrick Ness called The Crane Wife, which I may or may not review. I probably will in a few weeks. I actually was just looking to see if there were any books by Patrick Ness that I hadn’t read (he’s one of my favorite YA authors) and I saw this one. The title caught my eye because it is also the title of a song by The Decemberists (“The Crane Wife 1+2”), so I opened it up and what catches my eye but the epitaph:

And all the stars were crashing around

As I laid eyes on what I’d found

The Decemberists

I got super excited and I had to check it out immediately (normally I would have made a note of it in my phone). If you haven’t heard of The Decemberists, I highly recommend you listen to some of their songs because they are lyrically and musically beautiful.

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Review of The Handmaid’s Tale

This week, I’m reviewing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It is 311 pages and it’s fantastic! I’ll admit that it sometimes made me angry but I’ll go into that later.

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“I avoid looking down at my body, not so much because it’s shameful or immodest but because I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to look at something that determines me so completely.”

Synopsis:

It is the early 2000’s and the United States is in a state of upheaval. The President has been killed and Congress has been massacred. The Constitution has been suspended. Everything as we know it is changing, and quickly. Offred, the narrator whose true name is unknown, is now a Handmaid. Once a month she must partake in the Ceremony, a fertilization ritual between her, her Commander, and his Wife. She is used only as a womb because of the declining number of births. Her world wasn’t always like this and the reader gets to find out more about her past through her thoughts at night.

What I liked about it:

I loved this book although it was disturbing. I loved the details in the descriptions of places and feelings, the characters are really dynamic, the story felt too real. I loved how Offred’s backstory is revealed in small bits of information as she remembers things. She also informs the reader of what happened that made the US become this totalitarian government and how it transitioned. A lot of how it became like this really interested me but it’s also scary how quickly your rights can be taken away.

What I didn’t like about it:

This book hits really close to home. With everything that’s happening currently, I wouldn’t be too surprised if something like this happens to us in the next few years. There is some gore throughout the novel especially towards the end. There is talk of suicide and one or more of the characters does commit suicide (I won’t say who). There’s not much at all that I didn’t like about it except for maybe all of the cheating that happens prior to the novel and SPOILERS during the novel END SPOILERS.

My overall impression:

This is a wonderful book that I think everyone should read. You may not like it as much as I do, but it definitely brings to light some of the political climate of today. This is both surprising and disturbing because the book was written in 1985. I am worried about this becoming reality, but I believe that we can stop it if we are informed. On a happier note, I’m really excited for the TV show based on The Handmaid’s Tale!

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