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The Way to Write [Paperback]

Ted Hughes , John Fairfax , John Moat
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 April 1998
A practical guide, for beginners, people working at home on their own and students and teachers on writing courses, which explains how to go about evaluating their own work and then taking steps to improve it.


Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 2nd Revised edition edition (30 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140272704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140272703
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.6 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 838,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In 1969 the poet John Fairfax and poet and novelist John Moat dreamt up the Arvon Foundation, a venture born out of their frustration that nowhere in Britain were there writing schools where young authors could enrol to learn their craft. The Way to Write is a distillation of their 30 years of involvement with Arvon, which now runs country-wide courses.

Fairfax and Moat hold forthright views on the exact use of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs--new vocabulary to anyone who passed through the English and Welsh secondary education systems in the 70s and 80s. They quite rightly claim that as these are the building blocks of sentences, held together by the mortar of punctuation, your carefully constructed literary edifice will come crashing down unless you have learned how to manipulate them to best effect. Their recipe for success? More concrete nouns, fewer adjectives.

The book's strength lies in the way Fairfax and Moat work through "before" and "after" examples culled from their students' and other poets' writing. They highlight exactly what they mean when they exhort you to choose precise nouns or edit out extraneous adjectives--you can read the difference for yourself.

Fairfax and Moat are very keen on the idea of writer as sorcerer, somebody who weaves spells with words, and this extended metaphor can wear thin over the course of 10 chapters. However, what advice they do give is so sensible that you can forgive them their occasional mystical flights of fancy. Now, go weave your own spell... --Amanda Cameron


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This book is excellent for someone just starting out in writing. Particularly if you are looking to write poetry, or to make your prose as beautiful as possible.
The basic habits I picked up from this book have stayed with me for the last ten years. They have helped me to improve my writing to the point where it was publishable. "The Way to Write" is easy to read and the ideas in it are fascinating. I would unreservedly recommend it to any new poet as the first book to buy. I also use its methods in most of the prose I write.
One of the best things it taught me was the economical use of language. How to get the most power from the fewest words. And how sometimes fewer words can mean more power. Simple examples of all the suggested techniques are given throughout.
Highly recommended - a real investment in your talent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I first bought this years ago and have read many other books on creative writing since but this remains one of the best. The authors don't just tell but show how to write poetry/prose that grabs the imagination and touches the spirit. Yet they are not at all patronising. Everytime I go back to this book I am inspired to write. Perhaps I should read it every night (rather than every six monthsor so) and then with a bit of application I might become the success they help me to believe I could be!
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5.0 out of 5 stars writing 13 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good book to kick start any creative writing endevour.
Any book that gets you to put words onto paper must be good; when we live in an age of multi chanel TV and computer games.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor advice, badly written 19 Aug 2003
Format:Hardcover
The subtitle of this book ("A complete guide to the basic skills ...") is a gross overstatement. The text is mostly about being more expressive when writing poetry and similarly literary prose. Indeed, the authors say as much and there are several other "The Way to Write ..." titles covering other writing categories. Still, this book is quite good on such points as the weakening effect of adjectives on nouns, and of adverbs on verbs ("The mouse scampered hurriedly..."). But it is silent, or sketchy, or out-dated on most other topics of interest to writers; the authors admit in the 1992 reprint that its 1981 origin make it useless on writing tools such as word processing and computers.
On grammar -- an extremely important basic skill for most writing, even if not for some poetry -- the book is very weak. The authors devote several chapters to parts of speech (nouns, verbs and adjectives etc.) but refer to "the grammarian" as an archetypal pedant obsessed with dry classification; and when they attempt to expound briefly on grammar they are not only too sketchy to be any help, but also in places just plain wrong. For instance, in discussing verbs they lump together "the active, the passive, and the subjunctive" quite incorrectly as "moods"; the active and passive are grammatical voices: the subjunctive is a mood, its normal usage counterpart being the indicative, and this error will only confuse readers not confident on the point.
There are many other flaws in the text. In particular, much of the punctuation is extremely poor. Consider this sentence: "The writer then measures not by the rule book but by his ear." The absence of commas leads the reader to construe the sentence initially as though it were part of a sequence, as in "The writer first does this ... The writer then measures ...
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