Answer & Explanation:requiements:1. each question writes 150 words 2. read book first



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Which of Elbow’s writing processes works best for you and why? Of all the ways
Elbow tells us to write without thinking about it, which do you prefer and what would
you add to his list? (read writing with the power, and then answer this question, 150
What does King say we need to do in order to become better writers? How can you
incorporate these into your lives both in and out of school? ( read stephen king on
writing, and then answer the question, 150 words)
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
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Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole
or in part in any form.
and design are trademarks of Macmillan Library
Reference USA, Inc., used under license by
Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.
Set in Garamond No. 3
Library of Congress Publication data is available
King, Stephen, 1947–
On writing : a memoir of the craft / by Stephen King.
p. cm.
1. King, Stephen, 1947– 2. Authors, American—20th century—Biography. 3. King,
Stephen, 1947—Authorship. 4. Horror tales—Authorship. 5. Authorship. I. Title.
PS3561.I483 Z475 2000
813′.54—dc21 00-030105
ISBN 0-7432-1153-7
Author’s Note
Unless otherwise attributed, all prose examples, both good and evil,
were composed by the author.
There Is a Mountain words and music by Donovan Leitch. Copyright © 1967
by Donovan (Music) Ltd. Administered by Peer International Corporation. Copyright
renewed. International copyright secured. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Granpa Was a Carpenter by John Prine © Walden Music, Inc. (ASCAP).
All rights administered by WB Music Corp. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Warner Bros. Publications U.S. Inc., Miami, FL 33014.
Honesty’s the best policy.
—Miguel de Cervantes
Liars prosper.
First Foreword
In the early nineties (it might have been 1992, but it’s hard to
remember when you’re having a good time) I joined a rockand-roll band composed mostly of writers. The Rock Bottom
Remainders were the brainchild of Kathi Kamen Goldmark,
a book publicist and musician from San Francisco. The group
included Dave Barry on lead guitar, Ridley Pearson on bass,
Barbara Kingsolver on keyboards, Robert Fulghum on mandolin, and me on rhythm guitar. There was also a trio of
“chick singers,” à la the Dixie Cups, made up (usually) of
Kathi, Tad Bartimus, and Amy Tan.
The group was intended as a one-shot deal—we would
play two shows at the American Booksellers Convention, get
a few laughs, recapture our misspent youth for three or four
hours, then go our separate ways.
It didn’t happen that way, because the group never quite
broke up. We found that we liked playing together too much
to quit, and with a couple of “ringer” musicians on sax and
drums (plus, in the early days, our musical guru, Al Kooper, at
the heart of the group), we sounded pretty good. You’d pay to
hear us. Not a lot, not U2 or E Street Band prices, but maybe
what the oldtimers call “roadhouse money.” We took the
group on tour, wrote a book about it (my wife took the pho7
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tos and danced whenever the spirit took her, which was quite
often), and continue to play now and then, sometimes as The
Remainders, sometimes as Raymond Burr’s Legs. The personnel comes and goes—columnist Mitch Albom has replaced
Barbara on keyboards, and Al doesn’t play with the group anymore ’cause he and Kathi don’t get along—but the core has
remained Kathi, Amy, Ridley, Dave, Mitch Albom, and me
. . . plus Josh Kelly on drums and Erasmo Paolo on sax.
We do it for the music, but we also do it for the companionship. We like each other, and we like having a chance to
talk sometimes about the real job, the day job people are
always telling us not to quit. We are writers, and we never ask
one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.
One night while we were eating Chinese before a gig in
Miami Beach, I asked Amy if there was any one question she
was never asked during the Q-and-A that follows almost every
writer’s talk—that question you never get to answer when
you’re standing in front of a group of author-struck fans and
pretending you don’t put your pants on one leg at a time like
everyone else. Amy paused, thinking it over very carefully,
and then said: “No one ever asks about the language.”
I owe an immense debt of gratitude to her for saying that.
I had been playing with the idea of writing a little book
about writing for a year or more at that time, but had held
back because I didn’t trust my own motivations—why did I
want to write about writing? What made me think I had
anything worth saying?
The easy answer is that someone who has sold as many
books of fiction as I have must have something worthwhile to say
about writing it, but the easy answer isn’t always the truth.
Colonel Sanders sold a hell of a lot of fried chicken, but I’m not
sure anyone wants to know how he made it. If I was going to
On Writing
be presumptuous enough to tell people how to write, I felt
there had to be a better reason than my popular success. Put
another way, I didn’t want to write a book, even a short one
like this, that would leave me feeling like either a literary gasbag or a transcendental asshole. There are enough of those
books—and those writers—on the market already, thanks.
But Amy was right: nobody ever asks about the language.
They ask the DeLillos and the Updikes and the Styrons, but
they don’t ask popular novelists. Yet many of us proles also
care about the language, in our humble way, and care passionately about the art and craft of telling stories on paper.
What follows is an attempt to put down, briefly and simply,
how I came to the craft, what I know about it now, and how
it’s done. It’s about the day job; it’s about the language.
This book is dedicated to Amy Tan, who told me in a very
simple and direct way that it was okay to write it.
Second Foreword
This is a short book because most books about writing are
filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included,
don’t understand very much about what they do—not why it
works when it’s good, not why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.
One notable exception to the bullshit rule is The Elements of
Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. There is little or
no detectable bullshit in that book. (Of course it’s short; at
eighty-five pages it’s much shorter than this one.) I’ll tell you
right now that every aspiring writer should read The Elements
of Style. Rule 17 in the chapter titled Principles of Composition is “Omit needless words.” I will try to do that here.
Third Foreword
One rule of the road not directly stated elsewhere in this
book: “The editor is always right.” The corollary is that no
writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice; for all have
sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection. Put another way,
to write is human, to edit is divine. Chuck Verrill edited this
book, as he has so many of my novels. And as usual, Chuck,
you were divine.
I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liars’ Club. Not
just by its ferocity, its beauty, and by her delightful grasp of
the vernacular, but by its totality—she is a woman who
remembers everything about her early years.
I’m not that way. I lived an odd, herky-jerky childhood,
raised by a single parent who moved around a lot in my earliest years and who—I am not completely sure of this—may
have farmed my brother and me out to one of her sisters for
awhile because she was economically or emotionally unable to
cope with us for a time. Perhaps she was only chasing our
father, who piled up all sorts of bills and then did a runout
when I was two and my brother David was four. If so, she
never succeeded in finding him. My mom, Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King, was one of America’s early liberated women, but
not by choice.
Mary Karr presents her childhood in an almost unbroken
panorama. Mine is a fogged-out landscape from which occasional memories appear like isolated trees . . . the kind that
look as if they might like to grab and eat you.
What follows are some of those memories, plus assorted
snapshots from the somewhat more coherent days of my adolescence and young manhood. This is not an autobiography. It
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is, rather, a kind of curriculum vitae—my attempt to show how
one writer was formed. Not how one writer was made; I don’t
believe writers can be made, either by circumstances or by selfwill (although I did believe those things once). The equipment
comes with the original package. Yet it is by no means
unusual equipment; I believe large numbers of people have at
least some talent as writers and storytellers, and that those talents can be strengthened and sharpened. If I didn’t believe
that, writing a book like this would be a waste of time.
This is how it was for me, that’s all—a disjointed growth
process in which ambition, desire, luck, and a little talent all
played a part. Don’t bother trying to read between the lines,
and don’t look for a through-line. There are no lines—only
snapshots, most out of focus.
My earliest memory is of imagining I was someone else—
imagining that I was, in fact, the Ringling Brothers Circus
Strongboy. This was at my Aunt Ethelyn and Uncle Oren’s
house in Durham, Maine. My aunt remembers this quite
clearly, and says I was two and a half or maybe three years old.
I had found a cement cinderblock in a corner of the garage
and had managed to pick it up. I carried it slowly across the
garage’s smooth cement floor, except in my mind I was
dressed in an animal skin singlet (probably a leopard skin) and
carrying the cinderblock across the center ring. The vast
crowd was silent. A brilliant blue-white spotlight marked
my remarkable progress. Their wondering faces told the story:
never had they seen such an incredibly strong kid. “And he’s
only two!” someone muttered in disbelief.
On Writing
Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the
lower half of the cinderblock. One of them, perhaps pissed off
at being relocated, flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain
was brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst
pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only held the
top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock
on one bare foot, mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the
wasp. I can’t remember if I was taken to the doctor, and neither can my Aunt Ethelyn (Uncle Oren, to whom the Evil
Cinderblock surely belonged, is almost twenty years dead),
but she remembers the sting, the mashed toes, and my reaction. “How you howled, Stephen!” she said. “You were certainly in fine voice that day.”
A year or so later, my mother, my brother, and I were in West
De Pere, Wisconsin. I don’t know why. Another of my
mother’s sisters, Cal (a WAAC beauty queen during World
War II), lived in Wisconsin with her convivial beer-drinking
husband, and maybe Mom had moved to be near them. If so,
I don’t remember seeing much of the Weimers. Any of them,
actually. My mother was working, but I can’t remember
what her job was, either. I want to say it was a bakery she
worked in, but I think that came later, when we moved to
Connecticut to live near her sister Lois and her husband (no
beer for Fred, and not much in the way of conviviality, either;
he was a crewcut daddy who was proud of driving his convertible with the top up, God knows why).
There was a stream of babysitters during our Wisconsin
period. I don’t know if they left because David and I were a
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handful, or because they found better-paying jobs, or
because my mother insisted on higher standards than they
were willing to rise to; all I know is that there were a lot of
them. The only one I remember with any clarity is Eula, or
maybe she was Beulah. She was a teenager, she was as big as
a house, and she laughed a lot. Eula-Beulah had a wonderful
sense of humor, even at four I could recognize that, but it was
a dangerous sense of humor—there seemed to be a potential
thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, butt-rocking,
head-tossing outburst of glee. When I see those hiddencamera sequences where real-life babysitters and nannies just
all of a sudden wind up and clout the kids, it’s my days with
Eula-Beulah I always think of.
Was she as hard on my brother David as she was on me? I
don’t know. He’s not in any of these pictures. Besides, he
would have been less at risk from Hurricane Eula-Beulah’s
dangerous winds; at six, he would have been in the first
grade and off the gunnery range for most of the day.
Eula-Beulah would be on the phone, laughing with someone, and beckon me over. She would hug me, tickle me, get
me laughing, and then, still laughing, go upside my head
hard enough to knock me down. Then she would tickle me
with her bare feet until we were both laughing again.
Eula-Beulah was prone to farts—the kind that are both
loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she
would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on
my face, and let loose. “Pow!” she’d cry in high glee. It was
like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the
dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing. Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible,
it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared
me for literary criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound
On Writing
babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow!, The Village Voice
holds few terrors.
I don’t know what happened to the other sitters, but EulaBeulah was fired. It was because of the eggs. One morning
Eula-Beulah fried me an egg for breakfast. I ate it and asked
for another one. Eula-Beulah fried me a second egg, then
asked if I wanted another one. She had a look in her eye that
said, “You don’t dare eat another one, Stevie.” So I asked for
another one. And another one. And so on. I stopped after
seven, I think—seven is the number that sticks in my mind,
and quite clearly. Maybe we ran out of eggs. Maybe I cried
off. Or maybe Eula-Beulah got scared. I don’t know, but
probably it was good that the game ended at seven. Seven
eggs is quite a few for a four-year-old.
I felt all right for awhile, and then I yarked all over the
floor. Eula-Beulah laughed, then went upside my head, then
shoved me into the closet and locked the door. Pow. If she’d
locked me in the bathroom, she might have saved her job, but
she didn’t. As for me, I didn’t really mind being in the closet.
It was dark, but it smelled of my mother’s Coty perfume, and
there was a comforting line of light under the door.
I crawled to the back of the closet, Mom’s coats and dresses
brushing along my back. I began to belch—long loud belches
that burned like fire. I don’t remember being sick to my
stomach but I must have been, because when I opened my
mouth to let out another burning belch, I yarked again
instead. All over my mother’s shoes. That was the end for
Eula-Beulah. When my mother came home from work that
day, the babysitter was fast asleep on the couch and little
Stevie was locked in the closet, fast asleep with half-digested
fried eggs drying in his hair.
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Our stay in West De Pere was neither long nor successful. We
were evicted from our third-floor apartment when a neighbor
spotted my six-year-old brother crawling around on the roof
and called the police. I don’t know where my mother was
when this happened. I don’t know where the babysitter of the
week was, either. I only know that I was in the bathroom,
standing with my bare feet on the heater, watching to see if
my brother would fall off the roof or make it back into the
bathroom okay. He made it back. He is now fifty-five and living in New Hampshire.
When I was five or six, I asked my mother if she had ever seen
anyone die. Yes, she said, she had seen one person die and had
heard another one. I asked how you could hear a person die
and she told me that it was a girl who had drowned off
Prout’s Neck in the 1920s. She said the girl swam out past the
rip, couldn’t get back in, and began screaming for help. Several men tried to reach her, but that day’s rip had developed
a vicious undertow, and they were all forced back. In the end
they could only stand around, tourists and townies, the
teenager who became my mother among them, waiting for a
rescue boat that never came and listening to that girl scream
until her strength gave out and she went under. Her body
washed up in New Hampshire, my mother said. I asked how
old the girl was. Mom said she was fourteen, then read me a
On Writing
comic book and packed me off to bed. On some other day she
told me about the one she saw—a sailor who jumped off the
roof of the Graymore Hotel in Portland, Maine, and landed in
the street.
“He splattered,” my mother said in her most matter-offact tone. She paused, then added, “The stuff that came out
of him was green. I have never forgotten it.”
That makes two of us, Mom.
Most of the nine months I should have spent in the first
grade I spent in bed. My problems started with the measles—
a perfectly ordinary case—and then got steadily worse. I had
bout after bout of what I mistakenly thought was called
“stripe throat”; I lay in bed drinking cold water and imagining my throat in alternating stripes of red and white (this was
probably not so far wrong).
At some point my ears became involved, and one day my
mother called a taxi (she did not drive) and took me to a doctor too important to make house calls—an ear specialist.
(For some reason I got the idea that this sort of doctor was
called an otiologist.) I didn’t care whether he specialized in
ears or assholes. I had a fever of a hundred and four degrees,
and each time I swallowed, pain lit up the sides of my face like
a jukebox.
The doctor looked in my ears, spending most of his time (I
think) on the left one. Then he laid me down on his examining table. “Lift up a minute, Stevie,” his nurse said, and put a
large absorbent cloth—it might have been a diaper—under
my head, so that my cheek rested on it when I lay back
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down. I should have guessed that something was rotten in
Denmark. Who knows, maybe I did.
There was a sharp smell of alcohol. A clank as the ear doctor opened his sterilizer. I saw the needle in his hand—it
looked as long as the ruler in my school pencil-box—and
tensed. The ear doctor smiled reassuringly and spoke the lie
for which doctors should be immediately jailed (time of
incarceration to be doubled when the lie is told to a child):
“Relax, Stevie, this won’t hurt.” I believed him.
He slid the needle into my ear and punctured my eardrum
with it. The pain was beyond anything I have ever felt
since—the only thing close was the first month of recovery
after being struck by a van in the summer of 1999. That pain
was longer in duration but not so intense. The puncturing of
my eardrum was pain beyond the world. I screamed. There
was a sound inside my head—a loud kissing sound. Hot fluid
ran out of my ear—it was as if I had started to cry out of the
wrong hole. God knows I was crying enough out of the right
ones by then. I raised my streaming face and looked unbelieving at the ear doctor and the ear doctor’s nurse. Then I
looked at the cloth the nurse had spread over the top third of
the exam table. It had a big wet patch on it. There were fine
tendrils of yellow pus on it as well.
“There,” the ear doctor said, patting my shoulder. “You
were very brave, Stevie, and it’s all …
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