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on 13 September 2012
I've only read one chapter of this so far but the rest of the whole book could be a complete pile of pants and it would still deserve 5* for what I've already learned, so I'm not waiting, I'm writing my review now!

I've read a lot of books about writing and have found that a lot of them repeat the same material, with maybe a few nuggets that aren't in the others. This one was straight out the gate with something that has had me thinking about it non-stop since I read it and I don't want to continue with the book until I've really examined it. It's Tool 1: "Begin sentences with subjects and verbs" and it explains how strong sentences start with the main subject and its verb at or near the beginning of the sentence, like I have in this review ("I've", "I've", "This one was", "It's"). Once you start looking at that in other people's writing and analysing your own, it's an eye-opener. To me, it was worth the price of the book just for that. Can't wait to read the rest (but I'll have to, I'm still thinking about the first chapter!).

UODATE: I'm on Chapter/Tool 11 after a couple of weeks now and I'm still delighted with this book. So many interesting things, and a whole stage up from other books on writing. It's refreshing to read something that feels a bit more advanced and it's also a very easy read. Very highly recommended.
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Roy Peter Clark lays out 50 of his writing tools and invites us to borrow them for our own writing toolboxes. Each writing tool is presented in a brief chapter that explains the strategy, offers examples, and ends with practice exercises. Clark reminds us that these are tools, not rules. We should work with a few of them at a time to improve our written work and our writing process. The 50 tools are grouped into four sections.

In "Nuts and Bolts," Clark covers writing basics. There are no tedious specifications for comma placement or hyphenation. Instead there are effective techniques for using language "at the word, sentence and paragraph levels." These ten tools include "Establish a pattern, then give it a twist," which shows how repetition can set the reader's expectations. And how occasionally breaking the pattern highlights information and maintains interest. Another chapter, "Cut big, then small" discusses the painful task of revising by removing. Snip and cry, but snip.

"Part Two: Special Effects" demonstrates techniques of "economy, clarity, originality, and persuasion." The thirteen tips in this section include "Set the pace with sentence length" which shows how to influence the psychological "speed" at which a reader moves through text. "Get the name of the dog" emphasizes collecting concrete details as we do research. They allow us to move down the ladder of abstraction and bring life to descriptive writing.

In Part Three: Blueprints," Clark advocates organizing our writing process as well as our documents. Two of the best tools among these sixteen show how to encourage--and manage --readers' progress. "To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers" and whet the reading appetite with not-yet-complete information. "Place gold coins along the path" reminds to provide points of enjoyment and closure to satisfy readers. And reduce the tension created by all of those cliffhangers.

"Part Four: Useful Habits" closes the book with eleven long-term strategies for working writers. "Limit self-criticism in early drafts--then turn it loose during revision" balances creativity and critique. It is consistent with the two-part writing process described at length in Peter Elbow's Writing With Power. "Recruit your own support group" goes beyond standard advice about seeking feedback. Clark encourages writers to understand their own writing blind spots and needs for others' expertise. Then target helpers with matching knowledge and skills.

It does not surprise when a book from an experienced writer is well-written and entertaining--as this one is. It should not surprise that the advice is useful and can improve our writing if we follow it. This is a very good book and is highly recommended. It deserves a place on your bookshelf next to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, William Zinsser's On Writing Well, Susan Bell's The Artful Edit, and Mark Kramer and Wendy Call's Telling True Stories.

Feed your shelf.
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on 11 April 2013
So many writing tips books out there. It's a minefield. But this one I found really useful. I was in the middle of (struggling) to write a chapter in a technical (medical) subject and needed some inspiration/help. This book provided that. You might think these writing tools are for non-fiction writer, but many of the 'strategies' can be applied for non-fiction. I don't know if there are similar books out there, but this one is definitely worth the investment.
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VINE VOICEon 17 March 2015
This book contains strategies for both novice and experienced writers, and the ideas are applicable to both short and long fiction, from articles to novels. This is because it focuses on what makes a good story, and how to tell it well. Some books on writing have too much padding, where the author gives long examples from other writers' works, but this book sticks to succinct examples. The author's background in journalism makes it especially useful for writers who want to find ways to market their books via blog posts/articles and the media, as well supplying plenty of juice for those crafting longer works. Within the 50 tools I found several I had not considered before, and I am an experienced writer. Well worth the money. Wish I had ordered the paperback now, and not the kindle version as it is a very good book I will refer to again and recommend to other writers.
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on 5 February 2010
I came to this book via Roy's audio programmes on iTunes U (which are also excellent, and free to download). I had never heard of him before, but was so impressed by the extracts that I bought the book - which is even better. Very accessible, yet not at all superficial, each tool is illustrated by hit-the-mark examples. A practical guide that will improve any writer's work, at any level or genre - I know it has improved mine. Highly recommended.

This review is by David Williams writerinthenorth
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on 11 February 2012
I read this book from cover to cover when I first got it - because it's so well written. I still refer to it often. If you want to improve your written style, this gives you both a mechanics and philosophy for how to do so.
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on 11 January 2012
I have several books on creative writing and editing, and although all are good, this outshines the others. Buy this first. It is well written, clear and very informative. A really good read.
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on 23 August 2013
This is written with any writer in mind. It is not dictating what you have to do in order to write successfully, but it suggests ways of exploring wwords, phrases and your writing as a whole. It encourages you to think about the smallest thing not just the bigger picture because within that bigger picture are so many wonderful words and tools you can use to heighten the experience for the reader.
He provides so many examples from literature and even little excercises to try out so you can see the 'tool' in action. I highly recommend this to any writer who is doubting their work. You'll realise that a lot of these you do automatically and that will give you a boost. It will also make you think about things you never have before and once you've read that 'tool' you'll start noticing examples of it when you're reading and writing yourself. And it gives you greater clarity to understand your own writing as well as that of others.
It was recommended to me and I recommend it to you. See what tools can help you improve your writing and your confidence to know you are on the right lines. Awesome book!
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**********UPDATED***************August 2010-Re-Review.
A neat piece of work, Peter Clark's little toolbox of writing tips. A concise, easy to read format, perfectly designed for dip and play.

Organised up and down the ladder of detail, whether you want a well turned sentence, perfectly joined paragraph or solid foundations for an essay, you'll find something suitable in this toolbox.

Peter mentions one myth of sentence writing, that has been propounded for some time, at least in journalist circles, the myth of the long sentence and that its bad.

Offering instead the view that a monotony of sentence size provides little entertainment for the eye or brain. Rather, a rhythm may be established with a variety of lengths that is likely to engage readers more deeply and provide a more satisfying read to all.

Many of his tips are like this. Balanced and clear eyed, he advises against using tools as rules only. Instead, like good tools, use them where they are best suited, to carve out solid work and to know when a tool really is not needed.

As you can see, I have a long way to go! :-). That includes the practice of editing my own reviews!

*****Original Review********
I may not be the best example student of this book, however whether you write fact, fiction or political stuff (wait..that's fiction right?), this deserves a place on your bookshelf. *And frequent fumbling through looking for just the right tool.

You get 50 of them, just like he says. Each one alone will make a big impact on your basic writing style and ability.

After reading it, I've become a fan of clear, concise writing. I'm guilty of using the phrase "clear, concise and precise" way too often as a result. Trite perhas, but true.

If you want to clear up your reports, bring life to your essays and make writing fun again, pick this up, read it a few times then use it along side each piece of authoring you do.

Don't take my review as an example however-I could be described as the world's laziest wannabe and I would like to get this review on Amazon's site rather than edit it 3 times (Which it needs!) :).

I try hard to get the best books for a job, hence I have written just a few negative reviews.

*Yes, you can start a sentence with And, But and Because. See Micheal Drout if you don't believe me!
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on 21 October 2014
This is an excellent manual for established and would-be writers alike. Peter Clark guides the reader through a logically sequenced series of succinct chapters, explaining the craft of writing in the clearest terms, and drawing on the very best of literature and journalism to exemplify each new skill. Short exercises at the end of each chapter help those who wish to consolidate these skills.
Call me extravagant if you will, but I bought both the paperback and Kindle versions, so that this book is always to hand when needed. I rate it that highly.
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