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Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,467 Ratings  ·  242 Reviews
One of America's most influential writing teachers offers a toolbox from which writers of all kinds can draw practical inspiration.

"Writing is a craft you can learn," says Roy Peter Clark. "You need tools, not rules." His book distills decades of experience into 50 tools that will help any writer become more fluent and effective.

WRITING TOOLS covers everything from the mo
Hardcover, 260 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Little, Brown and Company
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Community Reviews

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Jaycruz Cruz
Dec 09, 2010 Jaycruz Cruz rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Before Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer became an actual book, the tools were a series of blog posts Roy Peter Clark wrote over at The version I've read were those original 50 blog posts collected in PDF form. You can find all the original collected posts here and if you want to you can download the PDF from my Dropbox folder here.

From what you can see on the actual book's table of contents there are some differences from the the names of the tools and how it
morning Os
May 27, 2009 morning Os rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I am an international student who had never been surrounded by native English speakers until the age of 22. I ended up studying humanities in an American phd program. Imagine how stressful writing is for someone like me. I have been struggling to acquire the instinct and intuition you guys have when you judge "good" and "bad" writings. This book is helping me a lot understand, step by step, what constitutes good English sentences, paragraphs and chapters. The examples are brilliant. They not onl ...more
Obaada Elhomsy
May 11, 2013 Obaada Elhomsy rated it liked it

In general it's a good book, which provides writers with effective and useful tools. However, the most thing I disliked is the excess of quoting and exampling, that really irked me in some parts, and spoiled the whole meaning.

Lets try to sum up the essential topics and themes:

1- Begin sentences with subjects and verbs ( make meaning early, then let weaker elements branch to the right)

2-Order words for emphasis (place strong words at the beginning and at the end)

3-Be passive-aggressive (use pass
Sep 03, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend for anyone who wants inspiration & splendidly helpful tools for polishing your writing! It even has sections for dealing with that nagging critic in our heads and how to handle negative criticism from others.

"The receptive writer must convert debate into conversation. A debate ends with a winner and a loser. A conversation can conclude with both sides learning, and a promise of more good talk to come."
May 17, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
An outstanding book for anyone who writes or wants to be a writer. I attended two seminars put on by the author at the Tucson Festival of Books, and new immediately I had to have this book.

It's broken down into four parts...Nuts and Bolts; Special Effects; Blueprints; and Useful Habits. From the 4 subtitles, you can see it goes beyond just good grammar and proper usage. It is designed to not only help your writing, but improve your writing habits and give you new ways to think about your writing
Sep 12, 2012 Karsten rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sabbatical-reads
Clark's book is about 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. The book gets the fifth star, though, for its outstanding structure/organization. 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 bett
Jan 15, 2012 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book does what its title suggests, meticulously presents all the tactics that are often used by professional and savvy writers. With a succinct and informative table of contents, this book can serve as a dictionary of writing, readers can locate what tactics they are interested in, explore it without reading the book cover to cover ( although the book is good enough for you to do so). Introducing from the basic knowledge of sentence structure to the board field of writers' habits, the author ...more
Mar 30, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favs
What is the book about?
"Think of writing as carpentry, and consider this book your toolbox. You can borrow a writing tool at any time"

Cool. How should I use these tools?
"Do not try to apply these tools all at once"

What's the best tool of them all?
"The most powerful tool on your workbench is oral reading"

So these tools will make me sound smarter?
"The writer cannot make something clear until the difficult subject is clear in the writer's head. Then, and only then, does she reach into the writer'
Jun 21, 2012 J.L. rated it really liked it
This book is essential reading for every beginning writer. Roy Clark provides the writer fifty tools with which to improve her craft. The chapters are short, informative, and funny and written in a style to illustrate a particular tool. He also provides brief exercises at the end of each chapter—not just writing, but cool exercises like observing people—to spur your thinking or to help increase your understanding.

The passage that resonated with me was his advice to not implement everything in t
Dan Richter
Feb 13, 2015 Dan Richter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english, self-help
Das beste Buch zum Thema Schreiben, das ich bisher gelesen habe. (Gut, viel mehr als fünf waren es bisher auch nicht.)
Statt mit starren Regeln voranzumarschieren, öffnet Clark seine Werkzeugkiste. Er beginnt mit dem scheinbar Einfachsten, zum Beispiel Wort-Reihenfolge oder das Verhältnis von Aktiv- und Passivkonstruktionen. Clark zeigt, wie Aufzählungen funktionieren und wann sie nicht funktionieren. Er zeigt, was passiert, wenn man diese Regeln aus Unvermögen bricht und vor allem, wie man sie g
Jan 09, 2014 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Every so often in life you come across something that makes you pause and think, "Okay, this is really something. This is how it's done." Sometimes it's a movie, like The Matrix with all it's dazzling special effects, stylish art, and mysterious story. Sometimes it's a new technique like the Fosbury Flop at the 1968 Olympics, stealing the show and changing how everyone does the high jump from then on. Sometimes it's whatever you call it when you release a seminal rock album like Sgt. Pepper's an ...more
Oct 29, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
I love to read, and I love to write. I especially love to read about writing.

On my way back from a hockey game in Wilkes-Barre one night, I stopped for gas. On top of the gas pump I was using, sat this book. It was in rough shape - wet, discolored, etc. If it had been a book about anything else, I leave it right where it was. But since it was about writing, I took it home.

And I'm glad I did.

This book is on par with Strunk & White, "On Writing", and "Bird by Bird", as far as instructional wri
May 15, 2011 Jen rated it it was amazing
I saw Roy Peter Clark speak at Teachers College last year during a professional development day focused on helping my students advance as writers. Although I walked away with a lot of fantastic ideas for my classroom, I was equally inspired as a writer myself to "raise the level" of my own writing. His book, Writing Tools, is fantastic and I would recommend it for any writer, but particularly for those in the midst of revision. It feels a little silly to put it on my "read" shelf, as I will cont ...more
Einar Nielsen
Jun 14, 2015 Einar Nielsen rated it really liked it
This book is really well set up and that is in fact its strongest feature. There are 50 short chapters that can be easily accessed and each with a short workshop at the end. This is the type of book that should be on your desk for easy access. But that being said it is not as good as Stein on Writing or Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, both of which are fantastic. If you are shopping around for books on writing I would at leas begin with those two and then maybe move on to this one. Like I said ...more
Rebecca Graf
Apr 13, 2012 Rebecca Graf rated it it was amazing
If you are a writer or even a want to be writer, chances are you still can learn something new. If you’re like me, you can learn a lot of new things to help your writing. One great way is to read what other successful writers have learned over the years. I’ve gotten several books over the last few months and Roy Peter Clarks’ Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer is a resource that might just help you.

This is not a book that holds your hand and walks you through steps. Each cha
Nov 21, 2012 Ken rated it really liked it
It's a nice mix of nuts-and-bolts and practical writing techniques, all distilled into neat, 3-5 page chapters, each devoted to a "tool." In each short chapter, Clark provides excerpts from stories, novels, essays, newspaper and magazine articles as examples. Then he ends each chapter with three or four "workshop" ideas to practice that writing tool. Some tools will be familiar to anyone who reads about writing or teaches it (e.g. "Activate your verbs," "Prefer the simple over the technical," an ...more
Tool 10 - Cut big, then small. (Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.)

Tool 14 - Get the name of the dog. (Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.)

Tool 18 - Set the pace with sentence length. (Vary sentences to influence the reader's speed.)

Tool 23 - Tune your voice. (Read stories aloud.)

Tool 28 - Put odd and interesting things next to each other. (Help the reader learn from contrast.)

Tool 31 - Build your work around a key question. (Stories need an en
Aug 11, 2015 Celine rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Writing Tools is a great little book for any sort of writer - whether you are a journalist, an author, a blogger, or an academic writer. His advice is clear, neatly ordered, and easy to adapt. I've read a lot of writing advice already, but there was still plenty to learn from this book.
Writer Ace
Jul 11, 2013 Writer Ace rated it it was amazing
Most writing books fall short in terms of actually ANALYZING techniques used by different writers to make their prose sing. This one picks off technique after technique, showing examples and giving exercises to try with each. It's the first writing book I've ever seen identify a technique I first noticed in Scott Russell Sanders' work--mucking with the third element in a parallel series of three on purpose. While he didn't use any of Sanders' work, he did show examples of it at play in other wr ...more
Apr 20, 2014 Laini rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-craft
Well-structured and educational, with good points and interesting anecdotes.

Worth picking up!
David Williams
Apr 13, 2011 David Williams rated it it was amazing
I came to this book via Roy's audio programmes on iTunes U (which are also excellent, and free to download). I had never heard of him before, but was so impressed by the extracts that I bought the book - which is even better. Very accessible, yet not at all superficial, each tool is illustrated by hit-the-mark examples. A practical guide that will improve any writer's work, at any level or genre - I know it has improved mine. Highly recommended.

Reviewer David Williams has a regular writer's blo
Peter N.
May 01, 2013 Peter N. rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. Clark gives the writer a toolbox of ideas that range from how to arrange sentences to foreshadowing to working with an editor. All the chapters are short with questions at the end to spur further thought. He arranges the material well so the reader can easily reference a portion of the book later. He demystifies the writing process, as well. The reader leaves believing that he can write well if he takes the time and uses the right tools. Writing tools is an excellent ...more
Jon Stephens
Jan 04, 2016 Jon Stephens rated it it was amazing
Writing Tools is an instructional book focusing on the craft of writing. It covers 50 tips (”tools”) across 4 categories that authors should keep in mind as they write anything from novels to short stories to newspaper articles. The categories include Grammatical reminders (”Nuts and Bolts”), stylist elements (”Special Effects”), planning and structure (”Blueprints”), and general writing life strategies (”Useful Habits”). Each chapter has a clear title that tells us what he’s going to be focusin ...more
Dec 31, 2015 Aimée rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Nicely written. I liked the concise sections.

A bit of perspective on me to help you judge the review: I've been writing for quite a while, have some intent in the area, but have read little in it. My formal English education ended with my GCSE's (I veered towards the sciences, though I did well across the spectrum).

I enjoyed the tip about keeping a box of ideas on a particular subject (for some reason, though I tend to gather them in my head, or jot bits down, I never thought to conglomerate an
George Kelly
Sep 02, 2015 George Kelly rated it really liked it
“This book invites you to imagine the act of writing less as a special talent and more as a purposeful craft . . .”

I’ve read numerous writing manuals and how-to guides over the years and this is one of the most comprehensive I’ve come across. Many books of this ilk promise to delve into a wide variety of issues but tend to scrimp on information in order to examine a few main areas, such as plot, or characterisation or the mechanics of writing — whereas Writing Tools covers almost everything in e
Aspen Junge
Apr 26, 2014 Aspen Junge rated it really liked it
Clark is a long-time teacher of journalism, and in Writing Tools he gives a distillation of advice for writers of all experience and skill levels. I actually read this book backwards, beginning with the last section, "Useful Habits," because maintaining a daily writing habit is one of my current challenges.

I did not expect much that I hadn't read in other books on writing ("Put your but in a chair." "Just write." "Never use adverbs or passive voice.") and was pleasantly surprised. Each writing
Mar 21, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Won't be the last time I read this book.
Eric Smith
Nov 15, 2013 Eric Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
I enjoy books about writing and this is one of the best I've ever read. It takes writing and breaks it down into 50 lessons, or strategies, and that provides a really useful and instructive way to demystify the writing process. Each of the 50 lessons is short, 3 to 4 pages, and hard hitting and well written. If you care about writing - and I do, but I write mostly for work - then I can't say enough good things about this book.
Catherine Oughtibridge
I like how easy to dip in and out of this book. I read it a few chapters every now and again for a few months. It was easy to read, and had some good stories hidden inside. The advice made sense and was easy to follow.

I don't however find myself referring back to it. It's more of a read it and leave it on the shelf rather than have it on the writing desk sort of book.
Roy Peter Clark is a master teacher, and some of his best lessons are in this book. Most any aspiring writer has something to gain from Roy's tools. The only reason I'm giving this writing advice book five stars is that at times the text feels a bit derivative. And too often, the examples included are not exactly stellar prose.
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By many accounts, Roy Peter Clark is America’s writing coach, a teacher devoted to creating a nation of writers. A Google search on his name reveals an astonishing web of influence, not just in the United States, but also around the world. His work has erased many boundaries. A Ph.D. in medieval literature, he is widely considered one of the most influential writing teachers in the rough-and-tumbl ...more
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“Everyone should read, we say, but we act as if only those with special talent should write.” 8 likes
“If a period is a stop sign, then what kind of traffic flow is created by other marks? The comma is a speed bump; the semicolon is what a driver education teacher calls a “rolling stop”; the parenthetical expression is a detour; the colon is a flashing yellow light that announces something important up ahead; the dash is a tree branch in the road.” 3 likes
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