“Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer,” by Roy Peter Clark

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every WriterClark’s book is more about style than content or correctness. And the 50 strategies are so practical, readable, entertaining, and genuinely helpful that writing with “style” becomes just as substantial and reachable a goal as writing good content with correctness.

That’s fantastic. And maybe even better is the book’s structure. Clark has built this book like a fractal image: Its pattern and value is the same from far as from near, and it’ll make you a better writer in 50 ways, no matter how closely you examine it:

It takes *5 minutes* to read the table of contents—each item of which is a complete piece of instruction. (“Begin sentences with subjects and verbs”… “Cut big, then small”… “Seek original images”… “Build your work around a key question”… Turn procrastination into rehearsal”)

Double the value by flipping through and reading each chapter’s subtitle, too (*15 minutes*). (“Watch those adverbs: Use them to change the meaning of the verb”… “Let punctuation control pace and space: Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think”… “Learn the difference between reports and stories: Use one to render information, the other to render experience”)

If you have *a couple of hours*, read through the first few paragraphs of each chapter. Clark explains each strategy and includes one or two examples right up front.

If you have *a couple of weeks*, read the entire book, three or four chapters a day. Each chapter builds from explanation and example to a fuller discussion of the importance and effects that using each strategy has.

And if you have *several months*, dive into the workshop ideas at the end of each chapter. These are tremendously balanced—between prompts to reflect and to act, between analysis of others’ writing and my own, between my past writing, and my present and future writing; between simple/brief activities and complex/time-consuming ones. Not every workshop activity seems equally fruitful to me (how could they?), but there will be something productive here for any writer at any time.

This is the kind of writing book I’d buy to send off to college with my kids, regardless of their majors.

(Click here to buy Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.)

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