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Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser
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Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  49 reviews
From one of America's most influential teachers, a collection of the best writing advice distilled from fifty language books -- from Aristotle to Strunk and White.

With so many excellent writing guides lining bookstore shelves, it can be hard to know where to look for the best advice. Should you go with Natalie Goldberg or Anne Lamott? Maybe William Zinsser or Stephen King
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Little, Brown Spark
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Heidi The Reader
Murder Your Darlings is not just another book about writing. It shares the wisdom and creative insights of fifty or so authors, some famous, some not, and some who wrote their own books about the craft.

In his own unique manner, Roy Peter Clark distills the main lessons from each writer and presents them in curated chapters. The chapters are organized into six parts: language and craft, voice and style, confidence and identity, storytelling and character, rhetoric and audience, mission and purpos
Miebara Jato
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
Insightful book on writing. A writing book of writing books. Clark curates the ideas from the best writing and style books ever published. Every chapter covers a writing advice from a book and author. And at the end of each chapter is a summarised list of lessons for the reader.
David Stewart
Feb 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
I DNF'd this book at about 25%. I wanted a book that compiled a lot of writing advice, most of what I already know, so this should have appealed to me. However, the majority of the book is just the author self-congratulating himself on knowing so many other authors, and it's so boring that I was nearly in tears. What a waste of publishing energy. ...more
Oana Filip
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The first time I came across this book's name was reading the handbook of a creative writing workshop. The second time was during a podcast with a journalist I respect. The third time, we got the chance to meet in person, so to speak. In other words: I bought it and read it in a breath of the air.

Peter Clark's writing style is engaging, witty, funny, and insightful at once. That's a great selling point in itself, right? In the end, this reading is addressing people like me: storytellers on a roa
Max Limpag
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wonderful distillation of great writing books.
Neil R. Coulter
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, editing
Somehow when I saw descriptions of Roy Peter Clark’s new book, Murder Your Darlings, I had the wrong idea of what it is. I guess from the subtitle—“And Other Gentle Writing Advice, from Aristotle to Zinsser”—I’d assumed that this was an anthology of excerpts from popular writing books. That’s not the case. In the book, Clark spends each chapter looking at one or two writing books that have influenced his writing and teaching. There are, of course, selections from those books quoted throughout, b ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I selected Murder Your Darlings to read mainly because I liked the title, and Roy Peter Clark would approve--one of the first things we learn as writers is that every choice we make is important, from the title, to the layout, to the way we use words. This book, organized as an overview of different books on writing, showcases hundreds of tips on writing book by dozens of writers. Writers and teachers of writing will recognize many of the names in this book, and I found myself wandering down mem ...more
nerd culture is mainstream now. [jo]
annoyingly verbose about unimportant things- he should’ve called this a memoir, not a writing book.
Nathan Albright
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: challenge-2020
This book could have been a really good one.  In many ways, the approach of this book is a sound one, providing plenty of personal stories about writing and the author's own background while also pointing the reader to a great many guides for writing that span over the wide range of history and that demonstrate the wit and wisdom from a wide variety of writers who have sought to teach and guide others into writing better.  For the most part, I found this book to be enjoyable and instructive, wit ...more
Jul 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
Just a book with mini-reviews of other books? I’m not sure who this would be for. It’s almost a memoir of the author through books that were important to him with random questions/exercises at the end of each chapter. Boring and very unhelpful.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Writing can be tough. When you hit a block, it can even make you feel downright murderous. I know - I've been the mayor of Writer's Block Town for the last several months - I had completely stalled out on the academic paper I have devoted the last 8 months or so of my life to. I ended up using some of the advice I found in Murder Your Darlings to help me through the final phases of editing. I'm actually done now. I just have to smack down my fear of rejection for long enough to submit it. I wish ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Here are a couple of things that stood out to me:

(1) Chapter 7: Vary sentence length
"This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short senten
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book reminds us that writers since Aristotle and Horace grappled with the essence of the process and have something to offer to the discussion. Roy Peter Clark assembles the thoughts of experts into six sections, each with two subjects. I prefer one subject per section for organizational purposes.
Predictable sources lent little new. From the title one might expect to learn which parts of a novel beg to be cut; but this book has less to do with fiction than journalism. There's a vast wastela
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Imagine sitting down across from someone who has written an annotated bibliography that he is quite proud of and very excited about and listening to him explain why he’s excited about each work. Imagine also that he finds himself to be rather brilliant but is unaware of how obvious this is. The annotated bibliography is good, and the presenter is a skilled writer who does a nice job of identifying some of the most valuable elements of various writing books, but if listening to him explain his se ...more
Robin Jose
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you ever wanted to write, or like me still honing the craft – you’d love this book. I am no author by any stretch of imagination – still writing a few articles – and enjoying the process. I loved the book and found it immensely useful.

The book itself is a review of many books on writing. All the way from Aristotle, and yes – to the times of blogs and social media. His sharp wit and experience shine through and makes the book an enjoyable read. The subject he tackles varies – voice, style, st
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A good look at books about writing

I regard this book as a sampler of writing books. Roy Peter Clark takes these writing books and adds his own take on them. It is a great way to be introduced to a variety of writers and how they work. Given Clark’s credentials and expertise, I have no doubt that these are indeed good books for writers or want-to-be writers to read. I appreciated how Clark incorporated his own experiences into the book and how he showed his good sense of humor.
Disclosure: I rece
La Femme Librarian
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Although this book started off a bit slow for my taste, it's actually a great resource for an aspiring writer. Not only does the author boil down some of the best writing advice in the business, he also contextualizes that advice with easy to understand examples. I highly recommend this book as a resource for aspiring writers, especially if a writer wants to really zero in on the most important things to consider in constructing a story. An inspiring first resource for those thinking about writi ...more
Dominic Howarth
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Roy Peter Clark is, arguably, one of the best writers on the craft that is publishing today, so to hear his insights on what makes a good 'book on writing' is a great look behind the veil at the artform and practice of storytelling. Personally, I would have liked to spend more time with each book and have LESS of a selection, and because I have read his other work, I didn't feel like anything new was necessarily brought to the table. Having said that, I still highly enjoyed spending time with my ...more
Eric Cone
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
This is the best book on writing that I have read. It is full of information and advice, which many books are. What sets Clark apart is that he actually wants us to be better writers, to be writers. He is self-deprecating and witty at just the right moments. His decades as an educator really shine through. I found myself motivated and inspired. Plus, he does what most books don't, he gives us break downs of other books on writing and why we should read them. This is one of the things that really ...more
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
There is some good stuff in this book, both informative and inspiring. Too bad the author can't get out of the way - in each of the short chapters, which try to condense a book or two of writing advice into a handful of pages, he spends an inordinate amount of space name-dropping and dredging up anecdotes that mostly say little more than 'hey look, I'm in the same league as these guys'. Ultimately, the book's usefulness lies in pointing out other books you should read, making it a sort of glorif ...more
Chris Boutté
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I can't remember how I came across Clark's work, but I'm glad I did. This is the first book I've read by him, and he seems like an excellent writing coach. This book has a ton of great tips for all writers. As a non-fiction writer, there was one section that was solely dedicated to fiction, but I was still able to pull some nuggets of wisdom. I'm trying to become a better storyteller, so I definitely didn't mind that chapter. ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book is split into six parts and each part has several chapters. Each chapter has a lesson to help writers. The chapter on making a writing habit, which I am planning on implementing in my day. I highly recommend this book to new writers that are looking for some help.
Daniel Gaddy
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's hard not to compare all the books Clark writes to Writing Tools, which is the best book on writing ever, in my humble opinion. Murder Your Darlings doesn't reach that level, but it's incredibly useful. It's perfect for someone who's already read Writing Tools and is interested in more books of the same caliber. Who better than Clark to send you down the right path? ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Can I add more stars?? I was in the middle of chapter one on the volume I borrowed from the library when I realized I had to buy it. I wanted to write in it! Clark has taken dozens of the writing texts he finds most helpful and summarized them all here. SO many helpful tools for the writing teacher AND the writer. Frankly, for readers, too. Highly recommend.
Kathy Carberry
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
O usually enjoy reading books about writing but this book looks at books about writing. It was uninformative and I didn't see the need to cover this topic. Still, it may have worked if it was at all engaging, but it didn't work for me. The information and tone work Roberto make it uninteresting. ...more
Holly Allen
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
A wonderful guide with insightful tips, particularly on novel writing and memoirs. It references MANY other guides so it’s a good starter guide if you want references to other work you might want in the future.
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book does not talk about structure and very little about composition, but, much like an orchestra conductor, it advises on where to draw inspiration, how to choose your subjects, to form style and flair and how to squeeze the best of your work.
This is a collection of short essays from several books on writing. This is NOT a brand new manual on writing, FYI.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book just was not for me. I did not love it at all, and DNF it.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
Aside from the chapter on Hayakawa, the book wasn't as enjoyable or insightful as I had hoped. I received an ARC from a Goodreads giveaway. ...more
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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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“Test the power of your own arrangement of words with these exercises: 1. For fun, take a paragraph with five or six sentences and reformat it so that each sentence exists on a single line. Examine each sentence to see which words and phrases appear in the beginning, middle, and end. 2. Try to identify the main clause, a group of words that could stand independently as a sentence. There may be more than one. If there is just one, where does it appear: closer to the beginning or the end? 3. For each clause, notice the position of the subject and verb. In general, the closer they are together, and the closer both are to the beginning, the easier the sentence will be to read. 4. Notice the language you save for the end of your sentences, especially the end of the paragraph. Even if the subject and verb come early, you can save something special for the end. Be alert for interesting language that gets lost in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. Can you move it to the beginning or end, where it will get more attention?” 0 likes
“Open this book to a random page. With a pencil, mark any word or phrase that you think does not contribute to the meaning of a passage or chapter. 2. Pick another page. As an exercise, imagine that you have been assigned to cut 10 percent. Mark the candidates for deletion.” 0 likes
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