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Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer    by Roy Peter Clark order for
Writing Tools
by Roy Peter Clark
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

New York sports writer Red Smith said 'Writing is easy. All you do is sit down and open a vein.' Clark uses the quote in his Introduction to effectively convey why so many of us are afraid of writing. Some of us see being able to put words to paper as a mystical force that takes over when an author attempts to give voice to an idea. Yet others are simply challenged by terminology. What is an adverb? How do you know when to use it? How many adverbs is too many? What's the most effective way to end a sentence? The questions - and doubts - are endless.

In his book, Clark provides us all with the knowledge we need in order to face and overcome those fears. In his Introduction, he shares a secret: 'The writer's struggle is overrated, a con game, a cognitive distortion, a self-fulfilling prophecy, the best excuse for not writing.' While I'm sure many authors would disagree with him, his refreshing approach to facing your fears and simply sitting down to write is contagious. From the first few words, Writing Tools is an empowering resource. It emboldens us with lessons such as 'Fear not the long sentence' (Tool #7) and 'Let punctuation control pace and space' (Tool #9).

Many of the writing tools outlined in the book are aimed at authors who intend to write fiction. Written in a clear, precise tone with examples sprinkled liberally throughout, each lesson contains nuggets of advice from which any author - beginner, newly published or bestselling scribe - would benefit. Lessons such as 'Tune your voice' (Tool #23), which advises writers to read stories aloud 'to hear if it sounds like you', are remarkably simple to understand, and easy to put into practice. The lessons can be combined with one another as you practice, with amazing results.

But what if you're not an author? Although Clark does concentrate on fiction and its unique difficulties, such as choosing the right character name (Tool #15), for example, there is plenty of advice in Writing Tools to benefit the writer in all of us. Students can certainly come away from reading this book with a few new tricks that are sure to impress their teachers. And if your boss expects you to write technical documentation, well, knowing how to 'Break long projects into parts' (Tool #45) is an invaluable skill. But even those of us who never do more than write emails (or book reviews) can benefit from Clark's expertise.

Easy to understand and even easier to apply, Writing Tools is one resource no writer should be without.

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