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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Reading and Writing Work, 10 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars after just one chapter!, 13 Sep 2012
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this!, 23 Aug 2013
By 
H. Richards "random helen" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 1 Feb 2013
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For any aspiring writer this has all the tips and tools you need. if we had all this in our heads we would be filling the world with brilliant writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent advice, 11 Feb 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this first!!!!, 11 Jan 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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb tool for writers, 5 Feb 2010
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 Tools That Every Writer Should Know, 3 Dec 2013
This review is from: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Kindle Edition)
I've read numerous writing manuals and how-to guides over the years, but this is by far the most comprehensive (and useful) I've come across. Most books of this ilk deal with either plot or characterisation or sometimes even the mechanics of writing--whereas Writing Tools covers almost everything. Although it appears to be aimed towards journalistic writing rather than novels or scripts, there's a clear overlap of ideas and techniques, which can be beneficial for both authors and journalists alike.

Broken up into fifty sections, each chapter focuses on a different aspect of writing: from structure to procrastination to internal cliff-hangers--using, for the most part, examples from previously published works (primarily other journalists, but also novelists and poets) to solidify, explain or elaborate on his point. And although the chapters are quite short--probably about seven or eight pages each--the book never feels stingy on information, and Roy Peter Clark delves into each subject thoroughly and with an apparent wealth of knowledge and experience.

In essence, it's not just a quick how-to guide, but it's more of a lesson; a long, informative, insightful lesson, with an engaging, clear-minded teacher.

Whether you're a journalist, a short story writer, a novelist, or a screenwriter, I highly recommend this book. It has a little something for everybody.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full marks from me too., 9 Oct 2013
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I am only too happy to add to the run of five stars here. I cannot add much more to the comments below but I will say that this has been very useful addition to my library. Clark stresses that none of the strategies that he lists are set in stone but are merely areas to consider when writing and restructuring your prose for maximum impact and effect. It is the kind of book that one keeps by one's desk and returns to again and again to be referred to when writing. Its main strength lies in its breadth. Those who are writing fiction, those who are writing reports, the student who has to draft up an essay and those who have to write a best man's speech will all find help here. For under 10 I would therefore say it is an absolutely essential purchase.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every writer should have one., 24 Sep 2013
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I found this to be very comprehensive, very helpful for a first time writer. Lots of tips and helpful suggestions. Highly recommended
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