Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Be a Better Writer

Count yourself lucky if you’ve stumbled upon this post because today I want to tell you about one of the best books on writing I’ve come across.

Whether we write letters, essays, articles or blog posts, we all (I’m sure) strive to improve our writing. And, if you’re like me, you experience a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after putting the last full stop at the end of a piece of ‘wonderful’ writing. It may not be so great one week later when the flaws jump out to hit you on the head! But that’s another story.

Pic from Google Images
Today I just want to tell you about this excellent book.

Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark (Little, Brown and Company, 2006) has been at the Penampang Library since last March but it looks like no one checked it out until I borrowed it mid-August. I’ve been ‘re-newing’ it since then! (Sorry, but it’s a great book and I’ll return it real soon.)

The author has divided the 260-page book into sections.

Part One: Nuts and Bolts tells about the basic stuff like verbs, subjects, sentence lengths, use of punctuation to control pace etc. One new skill I learnt here: Place strong words at the beginning and at the end of sentences/paragraphs.

Part Two: Special Effects -  Among other things, in this section the author advises writers to “use shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs” when describing something complex.  

He divides words into three categories: function words (said, that) building-block words (house, river) distinctive words (silhouette, jingle). Don’t repeat a distinctive word unless you intend a specific effect.

Part Three: Blueprints -  More helpful advice such as Use dialogue as a form of action; Write from different cinematic angles.

Part Four: Useful Habits - Some are familiar refrains such as Limit self-criticism in early drafts. Others are common sense: Break long projects into parts (then assemble the pieces into something whole).

At the end of each chapter is a workshop—some exercises to hone your writing skills.

Throughout the book, the author has sprinkled short excerpts from the works of various writers—passages that have intrigued him.

If you’re looking for a book on writing, you might consider Writing Tools. Or perhaps you’ve a favourite book you’d like to share?

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