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.
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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 PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved