Creative Writing

Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book during YALC after a weekend of enthusiastic recommendations. The format of the book itself is a little strange – the first part documents how Stephen King became a writer, but it’s not quite an autobiography – it flits from scene to scene, year to year, only stopping to comment on a particularly important event. The second part of the book is a collection of tips for the aspiring writer. The third part of the book returns to autobiography, this time concerning the events that occurred during the writing of this book – that is, the car accident King was involved in in 1999.

I haven’t read any Stephen King before, but his work has become part of popular culture – his novels are incredibly popular, and have also been turned into some of the best films of our time – Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption andThe Shining to name a few. My knowledge of King’s works mostly comes from an episode of Family Guy – Three Kings, Season 7, episode 15 – which parodies three of King’s stories – Stand by Me, Misery and The Shawshank Redemption.

King regularly refers to his own works – surprise, surprise – throughout the book, so an acquaintance with his novels wouldn’t go amiss before diving into this book – but don’t despair. This is an inspiring and amusing book even without knowing his books in any detail.

King also uses the book to address the questions he most frequently gets asked at signings and book tours – and there’s a handy reading list at the back of King’s favourite novels, including one dedicated to the 21st century.

This is not a stiff non-fiction ‘How to write’ book, more of a gentle conversation with King himself as he gives advice and recalls tales of yesteryear.

A lot of the advice given here by King has been reiterated by authors again and again – I recognised a lot of the tips as ones authors themselves gave during YALC. I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that it’s good advice – and i’m almost certain i’ll be using it whilst writing my own stuff.

This is a book I’d certainly recommend for the aspiring writer, and/or fans of Stephen King. It’s clever, concise, and interesting, and a must-read for anyone thinking of writing their own fiction.

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TBR: The Post-YALC Pile

After an amazing weekend at YALC, my TBR (To Be Read) pile has grown. It was already pretty big – I’ve spent the last three years procrastinating by buying books, but not really procrastinating by reading them (after many 16 hour days in the library trying to learn Chemistry, you kinda just want to sleep and eat). I’m planning on getting through my pile this Summer though (never going to happen but it’s always nice to be optimistic!).

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1. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and 2. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithian

I’ve read two John Green novels before – Looking for Alaska and The Fault in our Stars. They’re both critically acclaimed, and I thoroughly enjoyed TFioS… the second time I read it. I hardly ever read a book twice, but TFioS was a rare exception, and I’m glad it was – I enjoyed it the first time, and I really want to be a bigger fan of John Green’s work (hence the book buys). Both of these books have interesting premises – AAoK is about a boy called Colin who has dated a grand total of 19 women called Katherine, and WG,WG is a collaboration between two authors, both writing for different characters (both called Will Grayson). I really hope these books exceed my expectations based on previous John Green novels I’ve read – but I won’t deny i’ll be first in line for his next book.

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3. Eleanor & Park, and 4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Rainbow Rowell. That’s about to change. All I’ve heard are good things about her novels, specifically these two, both published in 2013. Eleanor & Park is a love story, set in 1986, with Eleanor, the slightly overweight new girl with a dysfunctional family, and Park, a half-Korean boy from the ‘perfect home’. Fangirl is about identical twins, moving on to university, still obsessed with their favourite author. I’m excited to start reading these books, if only for the fact that I know people who fit these characters (an achievement in itself).

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5. Forever by Judy Blume

I’ve heard about Judy Blume ever since I started reading YA fiction. She’s a legend, and this weekend, I got to watch her giving a talk at YALC. I would have asked her to sign a book, but I’ve never read a Judy Blume novel. I decided to rectify that. It is a feat in itself that this book is still a bestseller after forty years – and a little disappointing that it’s still controversial. I picked this up at the Waterstone’s book shop on site at YALC – hopefully it’ll be worth the £6.99 I forked out for it.

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6. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I first heard of the book a few months ago, and I knew I had to buy it. You know why? The cover. I knew I needed that cover on my shelf. I’ve also heard good things – about the plot, the world, the characters – and after attending a talk at YALC with Marie on the panel, I ran out and bought the book. Kestrel is a general’s daughter in an empire which enslaves those who it conquers, and she’s expected to either join the military or get married. Kestrel has other ideas. She buys a slave – Arin – with unexpected consequences, and finds herself falling in love with him.

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7. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I hadn’t heard of this book before YALC, and it only took two days before I caved and bought it – I’d heard so many good things (It won the YA Book Prize 2015). To my surprise (maybe I should plan better), the author (Louise O’Neill) appeared on the ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ panel in the morning, and, because I was hauling around all my purchases from the weekend, I happened to have my copy of Only Ever Yours on me, for the signing afterwards! I’m so excited to read this book, and ‘Asking for It’, out in September – mostly because of the comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

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8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

This was one of the books my friends bought for my birthday (I sent them a huge lists of books I promised not to buy and let them choose which ones to get). This originally was released in 2011, and it’s been sitting on my Goodreads list since then. Juliette’s touch is fatal, and she must decide whether to use it for good, or for evil. Also, look at that cover!

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9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I’ve known about Gone Girl for a few years, since the book first came out in 2012. I was there for the initial hype, and I was just never convinced enough to buy and read it. Then the film came out, and I went to see it. The film is amazing, and I knew the book would be too. I know all the twists and turns now, but I hear the book is even better, and the film will be tough to beat. Bring it on!

What’s on your TBR list? Have you read any of the books on my list? (I’m not going to lie, I imagine most people have.) Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

YALC, London: Day 3

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Sunday was the last day of YALC (see Day 1 and Day 2 here!) and it did not disappoint. After packing up my stuff (which at this point had swelled to a very heavy backpack and a tote bag) and leaving the hostel, I made my way to Olympia for the third and final day of YALC.

The first workshop, Author and Editor, was presented by the amazing Non Pratt and A.J. Grainger. Both authors and editors, this talk gave a great perspective on the whole writing and editing process.

My only panel of the day was Bringing Sexy Back – a great choice if I do say so. The portrayal (or not) of sexual intercourse (of all kinds) is a controversial topic, but the panel handled it with grace, and brought up some important questions – again touching on the subjects of feminism, sexuality, and consent. I thoroughly enjoyed this panel, which was presented by James Dawson, and featuring Non Pratt, Louise O’Neill, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison. James Dawson was a particular highlight, as he was sporting a wonderful ‘naked Daenerys Targaryen costume’, complete with ‘modesty dragons’!

After lunch, I went to two back-to-back workshops on Book Blogging – Book blogging for beginners and Taking your blog to the next level. Both were presented by Andy Robb, and featured some of the winners of the 2015 UK Young Adult Blogger Awards. All the panelists were informative and had some really great advice on how to start blogging and what to blog about (I’ll hopefully be using this advice!). A real surprise were the goody bags provided by Chelley Toy of Tales of Yesterday – which even included everyone’s favourite thing, free books! A huge thank you for the treats!

Before the last workshop of the day (and YALC), I headed into the main Comic Con area to get my photograph taken with the lovely Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones). The rest of the convention was exciting to look around – I bought some photographs and a graphic novel for one of my best friends but there was so many things that I was tempted to buy! It was great to see some cosplay from around the convention – even if I wasn’t sure what a lot of people were dressing up as!

The last workshop of the day was Vlogging for beginners with Sanne Vliegenhart – I really enjoyed learning about BookTube and intend to at least have a go at it at some point (probably when I return to university). It seems like a really great community, and one that would be fun to participate in.

So that was YALC! I’m already looking forward to next year, hopefully as a more accomplished blogger and writer. I loved meeting and discovering new authors, and the panels and workshops were (and i’ve used this word way too much over the course of these last few posts) INSPIRING – so much that I started this blog, and NEED to be writing and working on ideas soon!

Hope you all enjoyed the weekend too! What was your highlight of the weekend? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

YALC, London: Day 2

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After a few hours sleep at my hostel (even though I was exhausted even after Day 1), I awoke on Saturday excited for another day at YALC!

I kicked off the day with an amazing panel – YA: The Next Generation. Moderated by Samantha Shannon, and starring Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon (wearing an awe-inspiring Zelda cosplay), Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, this was a real highlight of the weekend (although it did make me feel old at the tender age of 21!). This panel brought up some interesting discussion surrounding diversity in young adult novels, and the downsides of being published so young, and ultimately it was inspiring that people younger than me have both written and published novels – definitely got to get down to writing sometime soon! The panel also brought up the different routes into becoming a published author – Taran started posting on Wattpad before getting picked up for a publishing deal. The panel also reinforced the idea that you should write the book that you want to read – if you want to read it, others will too!

A highlight of the afternoon was the Editing Yourself workshop with Alexia Casale. This was my first real introduction into editing, something i’ve not really ever got to the point of doing (although I did write a 50,000 novel during NaNoWriMo last year which I might come back to at some point). The whole editing process became a lot less daunting and something I actually look forward to (although it is a lot easier to edit someone else’s work!). I’m really looking forward to the day where i’m confident enough in a novel and an idea that I get to edits! Alexia also gave advice on writing in general – something I took to heart was to start your novel at the last possible moment for everything to make sense and the plot to work – describing the mundane is generally boring to your readers.

The last talk of the day was on the differences between being published in the UK and the US – this was really informative about the different ways the markets work and what they look for. There was also some great advice about covers – something authors generally have no control over. It’s always exciting to see the ways different publishing teams take a novel and market it – so many different covers and titles for the same book inside (albeit a few language edits!).

On Saturday, there were also many amazing authors signing their novels – Judy Blume (a legend if I ever saw one), Cassie Clare (I didn’t take any of her books to sign because I already got two of them signed last year – and the queues were so long!), Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale, Arabella Weir, Patrick Ness… Great to see so many inspiring people in one place!

I grabbed a copy of Forever by Judy Blume, a book i’ve heard recommended for years, from the on-site Waterstone’s bookshop, and hopped on the tube after the convention to the Foyles store on Charing Cross Road. After many recommendations over the first two days, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse, and a book on writing New Adult novels (i’m planning on writing, honest!).

All in all, Saturday was an exciting day, with some great authors and inspiring panels and workshops. Were you at YALC? What were your highlights?

Annalise x

YALC, London: Day 1

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So I’ve had an amazing weekend at the Young Adult Lit Convention (YALC) (Part of London Film and Comic Con (LFCC)) which has inspired me to finally start this blog. So much happened that it’s probably best to blog about each day separately.

I’ll kick off with Friday (chronological order seems sensible!). I travelled down to London in the morning, reading a little of American Gods by Neil Gaiman then starting Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch on the train.The convention opened at 1pm, with YALC events starting at 2.30 – I arrived at 2pm and got stuck in! A real benefit of the YALC pass is that we got to use an exclusive entrance for the first hour of the convention, which meant skipping the queues (this came in extra handy on Saturday when the queues were round the block!).

This was my first YALC and I bought a weekend pass because the workshops and talks looked so good that I really didn’t want to miss out!

The first talk I attended was Publishing 101 with Gemma Cooper – this was a really good introduction to the publishing industry which I had had no previous knowledge about. I was already becoming inspired to write.

Next, I signed up for a trilogy of workshops. The first, Building worlds, was with Lucy Inglis, writer of City of Halves and Crow Mountain. Both these books have their worlds almost acting like a character, and so it was interesting to hear her methodology for planning out a novel and creating worlds unlike our own (no mean feat!).

The second, Cosplay for beginners, was presented by Lucy Saxon, who demonstrated some amazing cosplay herself (the panel were dressed as characters from Harry Potter, and historically accurate Ariel – inspiring!). The talk itself was really informative and encouraging to get up and just have a go, no matter what skills you have – good advice for any hobby!

The last, Creating characters, with L.A. Weatherly, was also really helpful – I learnt that knowing everything about your character (their background, their family, what they want, etc.), even if you don’t even mention it in the novel, can really help develop your characters (and your understanding of them). She also announced her forthcoming series, The Broken Trilogy, and unveiled the cover of the first book, Broken Sky! It was really exciting to be one of the first people to hear about a new series – definitely a highlight of the weekend!

Afterwards, I was so inspired I caught the tube to Waterstones Piccadilly to get a new Moleskine to develop some ideas for novels and characters – job well done YALC!

Was anyone else at YALC on Friday? What were your highlights? Comment below or on Twitter at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x