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Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life

4.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  687 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
Wordsmithy is for writers of every sort, whether experienced veterans, still just hoping, or somewhere in between. Through a series of out-of-the-ordinary lessons, each with its own takeaway points and recommended readings, Douglas Wilson provides indispensable guidance, showing how to develop the writer s craft and the kind of life from which good writing comes.
Paperback, 120 pages
Published 2011 by Canon Press
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On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
191st out of 550 books — 1,053 voters
The Sorrow's Garden by Anthony CarinhasA Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanaukenPeace Like a River by Leif EngerFather Hunger by Douglas WilsonLife at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple
Favorite Books 2012
13th out of 17 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,387)
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Courtney Joshua
Jan 16, 2014 Courtney Joshua rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
If only he'd called it "Wordpsmithy"... :)
Dec 11, 2012 Jerry rated it it was amazing
As an early Christmas present my in-laws gave me a copy of Wordsmithy by Doug Wilson, and I read it very quickly. I have read many Doug Wilson books so I am used to his voice and perspective, but in this book he really is playful and expansive. This is not a how to manual for aspiring writers with nuts and bolts, there are some good books that can do that, such as The Book on Writing by LaRocque.

This book is all about how live as a writer. Read good books, live a life with something to say, pra
Mark Ward
Jan 07, 2013 Mark Ward rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, 2013
I try to be scrupulous in my use of the five stars allotted to me by the gentle people of Goodreads. Five stars means "it was amazing." And I can't honestly say that about this book. But it was certainly fantastic. I—four stars—"really liked it." I chuckled and I learned. And it was short. It's hard to beat those qualities.

All Christian writers should pick up this book, and most Christian preachers, especially those who do anything remotely close to manuscripting their sermons. Sermonizing is on
Jacob Aitken
I am evaluating Wilson on professional respect, and I am trying to keep my antipathy of his theology, polemics, and ecclesiology to a minimum. Wilson has triumphed in an area where most people have failed--writing. Therefore, if he writes a book on how to write well, and how to live the writer's life, then he deserves to be listened to.

The book is interestingly arranged. He writes an introduction and then divides that introduction to intersperse throughout the chapters. At the end of each secti
Jeff Short
May 05, 2012 Jeff Short rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Of making many books there is no end, so says Solomon. I would add a corollary: Of making many books about making many books there is no end. In this case, that is a good thing. I have read enough of Doug Wilson that I wasn't surprised at how good this book is. Readable doesn't do it justice even if it is eminently. Wordsmithy is informative, insightful, and entertaining.

I must confess that I audibly chortled a number of times. I maybe even threatened a guffaw. I thought about including some quo
May 09, 2012 Mathew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
A Renaissance of Reading and Writing

Douglas Wilson writes with a certain gusto which often causes no small stir. He’s also unique as a theologian who also writes about a variety of other topics ranging from education, writing, logic, philosophy. I might argue that the church has far too few renaissance men and that’s part of the problem Wordsmithy address. Wilson urges aspiring writers to write well by reading broadly and writing widely. My default in reading and writing is to pigeon hole myself
Bethany F.
Mar 30, 2012 Bethany F. rated it it was amazing
Doug Wilson attacks the craft head-on… by addressing the craftsman.

"Wordsmithy" discusses how to be a person with your head on right--how to be a good writer not just good at writing.

The book is divided into seven tips with seven sub-tips, "a veritable Russian doll," as he puts it. From living to reading, from mechanics to language, from lousiness to skill, from sketching to stretching, Wilson moves with light-hearted seriousness from topic to topic while demonstrating his own subject matter.
Evan Hecht
Feb 28, 2016 Evan Hecht rated it it was amazing
Excellent wisdom found here that's worth reading twice.
Valerie Kyriosity
Feb 04, 2015 Valerie Kyriosity rated it really liked it
Wrought iron makes my heart go pitter-pat. There are smiths who can make beautiful things out of the stuff. And then there are the mere farriers who can hammer a metal half-moon onto the overgrown toenail of a horse. Though they're not quite as lofty as the iron artists, they can sometimes save kingdoms, which isn't too shabby a calling.

That's the kind of wordsmith I am. I like to mess about with words, but I'm not much of a writer...just a pretty competent (I hope) equine pedicurist, i.e., a co
Jesse Broussard
Sep 01, 2014 Jesse Broussard rated it it was amazing
I feel far too inadequate to review this book, as if I were asked to give a comic introduction to Bob Hope: I'd much rather shut up and sit down.

Having said that, read this book. Again and again and again. Memorize the blasted thing, and buy and read all the books he recommends. Or just follow him around till you see a chariot then steal his coat.
Darby Stouffer
Feb 12, 2012 Darby Stouffer rated it it was amazing
I loved this. It's funny, it's easy to read, and it provides great advice for those of us that want to be better writers, but aren't quite sure how to go about it. My only complaint is that I wish it were longer.
Jun 19, 2012 Grace rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Grace by: Dad
This book was amazing. It took me a while to read because he seemed to pack a lot of simple points into a small book, which was rather overwhelming to me. The points were big in themselves. While I did read it slowly, I feel like I got a lot out of it by reading it like that instead of reading it in one day like how it usually happens.

I’m trying to refrain from ranting about it. Good size, funny but hardcore writing tips, simple and easy to understand for any growing writer - or even writers who
Aug 09, 2012 Jimmy added it
I've enjoyed this book, it was a fun and informative read. Filled with practical advice for writers (maybe I think they are great because I've read very little on writing). I've enjoyed Doug Wilson's other works so I had high hopes with this book to reveal the working of a great writer. Wilson had seven points in the book, which he then breaks down into seven smaller points in a format that he describes as "Seven Russian Dolls." If you find that clever as I did, you would enjoy other witty sayin ...more
Gavin Breeden
Jan 04, 2012 Gavin Breeden rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-books
Read it in a few hours. Very enjoyable. The subtitle says it all, "hot tips for the writing life." This book doesn't focus as much on rules and tips about sentence structure or dialogue, instead, it considers what one writer believes the writer's life should include.

Some of Wilson's tips: Know more about life than books because it will make your writing more colorful and give you experiences to draw from, "read until your brain creaks", practice writing in different forms such as sonnets, essay
Aaron Downs
Nov 14, 2013 Aaron Downs rated it it was amazing
Reading Douglas Wilson’s witty work about writing, Wordsmithy, was a wacky way to want wonderful words to work their way into my own writing. This short book serves as a sort of discipleship manual for those who want to use words effectively, especially in writing. The suggestions given by this book serve to help one become a better writer, a better speaker, and a better reader. The directions that Wilson gives, if followed, produce a disciplined, yet delightful, development of diction. Though I ...more
Mark Nenadov
Sep 30, 2012 Mark Nenadov rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Most good books are enjoyable, but you don’t want to necessarily linger around in them. If they were much longer, you’d probably hate them. Part of their charm is that they end in a timely fashion. You enjoyed the day with them, but as the saying goes, at the end of the day “they are not your kids”.

It’s a rare and special book, though, that truly makes you really want to keep on chewing. Unfortunately, our notions of reading progress won’t ordinarily let us linger in a 100-something page book fo
Adam Ross
Jul 14, 2012 Adam Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-writing
Doug Wilson's book on writing is a lot of things, but boring is hardly one of them. His trademark pithy style is in full force here (something I haven't had so much fun with since A Serrated Edge).

If you picked the book up hoping for some help on the mechanics of writing, you're sure to be disappointed, because Wilson's book is about the writing "life," and therefore has more to do with prep than enactment, principles rather than rules. Much of it, in fact, is advice that needs to be applied ye
May 03, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing
I loved this short, practical book by someone much further down the road. Wilson doesn't write as having arrived; there's a hey-neighbor aspect to all his advice.

At the end of each section of each chapter (7 chapters, 7 sections each), he recommends books which explain or illustrate the point he's just made. If you didn't already admire him, you will for his recommendations throughout chapter 7—they're all P.G. Wodehouse.
Mar 17, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it
This was a very good book, and one that I highly recommend. Mr. Wilson is highly entertaining to read, and he has many good ideas as well. I especially liked the idea of having a commonplace notebook, where you write down good ideas and expressions you could use. I also thought it was interesting that almost every chapter ended with suggested readings that were mostly Wodehouse. I liked his section on writing about life. You have to go out there and live a full life in order to write about it. H ...more
Nov 29, 2012 Suzannah rated it really liked it
This little handbook on the writer’s life contains an immense deal of wisdom, and advice that is easy for everyone to take. Probably the two most valuable points in the book are to live a productive life both in the world of books and in the world of action. Get out there into the real world, he says, and do something, so you’ll have something to say. At the same time, read voraciously so you’ll know how to say it. Packed with the witty wisdom we’ve come to expect from Wilson, and all of it cons ...more
Gwen Burrow
Jan 06, 2012 Gwen Burrow rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, favorites
I've read a number of fantastic books on writing--books so inspiring, they're hard to finish because I'm constantly dropping them to start practicing what they teach. Wordsmithy is up there with the best of them. It's staying right here on my desk, and it isn't going to get dusty.

Some of Wilson's punchiest lines:

"You are a wordsmith. Remember that you are in the smithy all day long." (22)

"If you want to say a lot, you have to have a lot to say." (24)

"If you 'write by rule' only, will
May 12, 2015 Caleb rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: this is the only Doug Wilson book I've read. I imagine some of you may have strong opinions about him one way or the other. This review is neither a recommendation nor a discouragement of his other books, what he believes, what he writes, etc.


I say this is one of the better books about writing that I've read. It's up there with On Writing Well by William Zinsser. If Zinsser's book is a Big Mac, then Wilson's book is a double cheeseburger, light on the pages.

Wordsmithy is or
Craig Houston
Sep 12, 2015 Craig Houston rated it it was amazing
For this aspiring writer, who at the present has more aspire than write, Wordsmithy is a glorious gem. There were many points to take away from this book, but the most important to me is the need to have a life that is filled with experience, broad reading, and study so that there is a deep well to draw from. I highly recommend this book.
Feb 11, 2012 Joostnixon rated it it was amazing
There is one book Wilson has written that is funnier than this one, and it is an obscure one (Contours of Postmaturity). Get that one, and read it, if you can. But this one is helpful in a different way. A delight to read (which it ought to be considering it's a book on writing), and quite helpful.
Oct 02, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
So fun I couldn't put it down for long. Great advice from a pro, and it comes in small chunks, so I made lots of little bits of progress and finished in about 2 days. I've gotten into a habit of noting funny spots, and in this 120-page book, there might be 100. Not bad.
Scott Frazier
Feb 16, 2015 Scott Frazier rated it really liked it
Doug Wilson at times can be quite eccentric and polarizing, but one thing is for sure - the man can flat out write. He's incredible and when someone this good at writing, writes a book on writing - there is no other option than to read it!

I wouldn't hand out a five-star rating to the book because I've never read any other book on writing, but I can tell you it was one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read. Wilson is comical, playful and insightful throughout the entirety of the book. I wal
Jan 16, 2012 Jerry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: words, writing
This punchy little book more than lived up to its title. Fun to read and makes you want to write.
Brian Pate
Jan 23, 2015 Brian Pate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Perhaps the most fun book I have ever read. I am sure I will read it again and again.
Matthew Huff
Oct 02, 2015 Matthew Huff rated it it was amazing
Always good.
Krista Ottinger
Oct 08, 2015 Krista Ottinger rated it it was amazing
You know it's a good one when you abstain from reading just to make it last longer. I'm not saying that Wordsmithy was one of those intense keep-you-up-at-night page-turners, or that I had to exercise any superhuman feats of willpower to keep myself away - rare is a tip-book that riveting. But I did enjoy it immensely, and I was in no hurry to say goodbye to my nightly hot tip fix.

I bought this for my daughter years ago, in the midst of some fit of writing or another (hers, not mine!), and of co
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I write in order to make the little voices in my head go away. Thus far it hasn't worked.
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“A lot of aspiring writers quote the right people, but they do so like Mary Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. They quote Austen like Mary quoted her eighteenth-century bromides, and were Austen here to see them do it, she'd slap them right into her next book, and it wouldn't be pretty.” 9 likes
“Pace yourself in your reading. A little bit every day really adds up. If you read during sporadic reading jags, the fits and starts will not get you anywhere close to the amount of reading you will need to do. It is far better to walk a mile a day than to run five miles every other month. Make time for reading, and make a daily habit of it, even if it is a relatively small daily habit.” 9 likes
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