REVIEW Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

In the second of our review series, Miranda Moore gives us her feedback on Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools

I love Roy Peter Clark. I really do. Author of WritingTools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Clark imparts his wisdom with generosity and insight.

This book will not be for all. One or two Amazon reviews, for example, find it too American and too weighted towards journalists. I don’t object to either of those assessments. Many of the examples cited in the book are from newspapers and other media, but I can only think of one other book I’ve found quite so useful.
Divided into easily digestible tools averaging five pages apiece, Clark arms the reader with – you’ve guessed it – 55 tools to tighten and polish their prose. Through examples, he illustrates the points with a lucidity I could only admire. He demonstrates each tool with a compelling rationale but without over-egging it. You are free to read the examples and decide for yourself whether you agree with each tool, then apply it. I found myself almost always persuaded, and several times immediately attacked my work-in-progress with the relevant tool. Every time I did this, on rereading the amended passages, I felt the tool had helped me to exact a minor but tangible improvement.
This is not a how-to-write-a-novel book. It does not explore plot, characterisation, pacing. It is a book on prose, on writing better. One tool a day, and you’ll be done in less than two months.

You want examples? 
  • Tool 2: Order words for emphasis. 
  • Tool 6: Take it easy on the -ings. 
  • Tool 12: Give keywords their space. 
  • Tool 14: Get the name of the dog. 
  • Tool 16: Seek original images. 
  • Tool 18: Set the pace with sentence length. 
  • Tool 40: Draft a mission statement for your work. 
  • Tool 52: Express your best thought in the shortest sentence.
Thank you, Mr Clark.


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Miranda Moore worked as a journalist and editor in Scottish newspapers before turning to fiction writing. She was shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awards 2017. 

Review editor: Natalie Yates has been a SCBWI member for three years and writes for YA.
Blog: Twitter: @eastyorknat

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