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Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer 1st Edition

193 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316014991
ISBN-10: 0316014990
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Covering the writing waterfront-from basics on verb tense to the value of forming a "support group"-Poynter Institute vice president Clark offers tips, tricks and techniques for anyone putting fingers to keyboard. The best assets in Clark's book are in the "workshop" sections that conclude each chapter and list strategies for incorporating the material covered in each lesson (minimize adverbs, use active verbs, read your work aloud). Though some suggestions are classroom campy ("Listen to song lyrics to hear how the language moves on the ladder of abstraction" and "With some friends, take a big piece of chart paper and with colored markers draw a diagram of your writing process"), Clark's blend of instruction and exercise will prove especially useful for teachers. One exercise, for instance, suggests reading the newspaper and marking the location of subjects and verbs. Another provides a close reading of a passage from The Postman Always Rings Twice to look at the ways word placement and sentence structure can add punch to prose. Clark doesn't intend his guide to be a replacement for classic style guides like Elements of Style, but as a companion volume, it does the trick.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author, vice president of the Poynter Institute School of Journalism, wants you to understand that a tool isn't the same thing as a rule. A tool is something designed to help you, not constrict you. The 50 tools discussed here take writers through the process of storytelling in prose, from the basic (construct a sentence with a subject and a verb) to the advanced (make your characters archetypes, not stereotypes). Many of Clark's rules are technical, having to do with such matters as punctuation and tense, but some of them are more thematically oriented (for example, discussions of the proper uses of foreshadowing and suspense). Use the tools when you like, the author says, and throw them away when it suits you. Just know what it is you're throwing away and why. This is a useful tool for writers at all levels of experience, and it's entertainingly written, with plenty of helpful examples. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (January 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316014990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316014991
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roy Peter Clark has been called "America's writing coach" as his stated mission is to help create "a nation of writers." Since 1977 he has taught writing to small children and to Pulitzer winning authors from his mother ship, The Poynter Institute, a school for journalism and democracy in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is the author or editor of 17 books on writing, language, and journalism. The latest, all published by Little, Brown, are "Writing Tools," "The Glamour of Grammar," and "Help! for Writers," which is now also a mobile app. His work has been featured on the Today Show, NPR, and the Oprah Winfrey Show. More than a million of his writing podcasts have been downloaded on iTunesU. On five occasions he has served as a Pulitzer juror and twice has chaired the jury on nonfiction books. His honors include induction in the Features Hall of Fame, an honorary degree from Goucher College, and a stint at Vassar College as Starr Writer-in-Residence. His next book, due out in 2013, is "How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

222 of 229 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Roy Peter Clark invites aspiring writers "to imagine the act of writing less as a special talent and more as a purposeful craft." In his "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer," Clark urges the reader to "think of writing as carpentry, and consider this book your toolbox." The goal is to take away the fright and nausea that accompanies writer's block, and to make every writer more proficient at expressing himself.

Clark divides his book into four sections: "Nuts and Bolts," "Special Effects," "Blueprints," and "Useful Habits." Within these divisions, the author clearly and concisely presents his tools; he also includes excerpts from the works of outstanding writers to illustrate each point. For instance, Tool 22 is "Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction." The writer should know when to use concrete examples and when to reach for "higher meaning." Avoid the treacherous middle rungs of the ladder where "bureaucracy and technocracy lurk," and where euphemisms and meaningless phrases abound. Clark cites Updike and a baseball writer named Thomas Boswell to show the reader how it's done. Tool 38 exhorts us to "Prefer archetypes to stereotypes." We should beware of heavy-handed symbols and strive for subtlety. Although it is tempting to fall back on familiar phrases and well-worn ideas, a writer should aspire to cultivate his own distinctive voice. To get his message across, Clark cites a passage from James Joyce's tale "The Dead." Each tool is followed by a "workshop," with several practice exercises.

Some of the tools mentioned in this book are far from unique--most writing handbooks encourage us to make every word count and vary sentence length--but there are a few noteworthy tips that stand out.
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114 of 116 people found the following review helpful By A. Leary on February 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Maybe the best way for me to describe Roy Clark's Writing Tools 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer is to use the following analogy: I can bake good brownies. Not the world's best brownies, but they get the job done - brownie-wise, that is. I'd like to make better brownies, but I'm not sure what I should do differently. Better cocoa? Smaller pan? More butter? I never know what to change, so I just keep making the same mediocre brownies. The same applies to my writing. I know it could be better - I just can't figure out how to change it.

Enter Mr. Clark's wise and wonderful book, Writing Tools 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, and suddenly I've got a myriad of new ideas! Clark gives struggling and aspiring writers a neatly organized "toolbox" full of models, practices, examples, and "what-not-to-dos." Conveniently arranged into four sections, each portion of the book addresses different spheres of writing. The first, "Nuts and Bolts" concentrates on the building blocks of writing - the words, sentences and paragraphs. I found there to be an arithmetic quality to this first section, almost as if Clark was imparting the equations and theorems of good writing.

Toolbox number two, "Special Effects," delves into the less concrete world of how we use language. He identifies it as "tools of economy, clarity, originality and persuasion." In this section he explores all of the tools, or devices a writer can use to help the writer shape his or her authentic voice.

"Blueprints," the title of the third toolbox discusses the structure of stories and reports. If a writer intends to take his readers on a path of discovery, enlightenment and wonder then the writer must be able to construct a trail that is enticing, engaging and well-lit.
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93 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Ron Franscell, Author of 'The Darkest Night' on September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am both a newspaperman and and an author. I have followed Roy Peter Clark's teachings for many years, so when this book came along -- comprising many of Clark's extraordinary Poynter essays -- I snapped it up, and am glad I did.

Clark is a clear writer who doesn't clutter your thinking with 50-cent words and two-dollar concepts. He's plain-spoken and real, and his advice can be lifted off his page and immediately applied to yours. He gives you the tools.

This is a must-read for anyone who wants to tell a story better. Not just a newspaper article -- any kind of story. And not just young, wannabe writers-in-training. There's plenty in this book with which veteran storytellers can hone their skills.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on September 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools is to authors and journalists what Home Depot is to construction workers. Clark gives writers a fully stocked shed of clear, concise tips, strategies and guidelines to instantly help improve anyone's writing.

The material contained in the 250-page book is timeless. It can be used in the moment to help refresh a current work. Or, it can be perused for concepts to try and exploit in future work, to give authors refreshing ideas on how to write more effectively.

The book is organized into four parts: Nuts and Bolts, Special Effects, Blueprints, and Useful Habits. Nuts and Bolts are low-level tools to improve word choice, sentence structure, paragraph layout and editing strategies. The part on Special Effects contains tips on how to use language for imaging, pacing and emphasis, to list a few of the tools.

Blueprints moves to higher ground detailing how to plan a work, how to write dialog, and how to generate suspense like Dan Brown. The final part, Useful Habits, gives some ideas for project motivation and execution, to help writers get their art from brain to paper.

Clark did not develop all of these tools, and he admits that right up front. He uses dozens of references to give readers a sense that some tools are weathered advice, like lectures offered by a sage. But what he does well is put a good spin on the lectures. Anecdotes are provided alongside examples of the tools, and a humor is injected to help keep the book entertaining.

The end of the book is reminiscent of a textbook, in a good way. It has a detailed index to help readers locate topics of interest, and it has a handy five-page summary of the different tools. It's too bad the summary didn't come as a pullout poster, because many writers would surely tack it on the wall above their monitors.

Armchair Interviews: Another good book to help writers be better writers.
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