By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Writing is not magic. It’s a craft, a process, a set of steps. As with any process, things sometimes break down. Even in a good story, the writer runs into problems. So the act of writing always includes problem solving. “ ~Roy Peter Clark
Writing Problem? Look to Another Writer
If I have a problem with my car, I talk to my mechanic. I may have an idea about what’s wrong, but he knows what’s wrong. If I don’t know how to make leftovers taste fresh, I Google a particular site and always find a way to improve the dish. When I have an issue with my writing, what do I invariably reach for – you guessed it – a book by a knowledgeable writer.
But with so many writers out there and so many books about writing, where do you go? Although I’ve referenced Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and they are both still on my desk, there is another book that is always handy, Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
Why Should You Read this Book?
Because since 1979, Clark has been the senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists. He is the author or editor of eighteen books on writing, grammar, reporting, editing, writing ‘short’ and the art of ‘x-ray reading.
But also, because much of his focus is on nonfiction and better writing.
- Nuts and Bolts: strategies for making meaning at the word, sentence, and paragraph level.
- Special effects: tools of economy, clarity, originality, and persuasion.
- Blueprints: ways of organizing and building stories and reports.
- Useful habits: routines for productive writing.
At the end of each of the fifty essential strategies, there’s a workshop. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would do all of the exercises if I understood the chapter’s premise. I’m like a lot of other ‘adult writers.’ We managed to make A’s or B’s in writing courses, so we decide to skim the chapters and only read what we think is new information for us.
However, when I took the time to do a few of them, then ran the versions through a grammar program like Grammarly.com, I discovered that, in some cases, I didn’t grasp some of the more subtle nuances of the chapter.
Lesson 1 – Don’t skim; read it slowly and let the words register.
Lesson 2 – Read the entire chapter.
Roy Peter Clark: An Example of a Generous Writer
The other thing that I value in this book is Clark’s generosity. He gives other writers credit for his success or for helping him view the writing process from different perspectives. Often he’ll reference another book that is more specific to a particular aspect of writing. For instance, I had not read A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker. While written as a college-level guide, the exercises work for any writer.
One other book that Clark exposed me to is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer. Many would pass this book up because it was written in 1934 and might be considered outdated.
But what makes this book valuable is it deals with the inner workings of the writer’s mind, heart, and desire rather than technique. And those qualities do not get outdated.
Brande was ahead of her time in realizing that there are the craft and the art involved in writing and that we must use both to create meaningful, educational, and entertaining posts for our readers.
Writers are told to:
- Find our passion
- Discover our niche
- Write what interests us
- Stay true to our voice
Well, here’s one more word of advice on the subject of the writer’s purpose that isn’t current, but oh, so relevant:
“If you can discover what you like, if you can discover what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write a story which is honest and original and unique.” Dorothea Brande
Which Books Do You Want Reviewed at The Library Stacks?
Is there an author you want to share with the readers at The Library Stacks at Two Drops of Ink?
We’d all appreciate a review of any book on the subject of writing that our readers can find on Amazon. We are only considering books available on Amazon for the time being. If you’re uncertain if the book that’s helped you would work for a guest post, then consider:
- What books have helped you be honest in your writing?
- What book has helped you improve as a writer?
- Is there a standby book that you consult for writing issues?
- Do you have a go-to for grammar?
- What writer speaks to you?
Send a guest submission with The Library Stacks at Two Drops of Ink in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, and I look forward to more inspiring books about the art and craft of writing.
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