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Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  4,277 ratings  ·  484 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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Jay Cruz
Sep 09, 2010 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 09, 2009 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
Douglas Wilson
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wordsmithing
This was a very fine book on writing. Some really shrewd wisdom in this thing. One of my favorites is this: Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands. Rarely used words are not the same thing as unknown words.
May 28, 2015 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."
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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'
Sep 04, 2012 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
Jun 11, 2012 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
May 17, 2009 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
Sharon Orlopp
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Roy Peter Clark does a phenomenal job breaking down the techniques of writing into 50 key strategies. He provides literary examples to demonstrate the techniques and closes each chapter with practical suggestions.

Each chapter is bite-size, snackable content that got my writing wheels turning. The headers and taglines are memorable and I found myself writing notes in the margin and highlighting a lot of the book.

Clark's analogies stand out---comma is a speed bump; semi-colon is a rolling stop; co
Darby Webb
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must-read for every aspiring writer.
Bob Nichols
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book has many good suggestions and reminders. Part One, Nuts and Bolts, and Part Two, Special Effects, are strong; the second half of the book is less so and I can't say why.

The line between good writing technique and manipulation is an interesting question. Clark does not discuss this. When I read a book like this - there are many - it's really about only one type of writing. It's about how to entertain the reader. And that's why these books and the writing of those who follow their advic
Dec 26, 2011 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
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've read so many books about writing that I'm inevitably jaded anytime I pick up a new one. Well, I'm pleased to say that the rather generically-titled Writing Tools knocked out all my expectations. It's a bit bloody good.

Admittedly, this is because it acts as a cliff's notes version of manymany other writing books. Roy Peter Clark swipes the best advice from Natalie Goldberg, Dorothea Brand, John Gardner et al, and boils down their wisdom into short, snappy articles. This is a great book to re
Sotiris Makrygiannis
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, internet
A nice book, full with 50 techniques on how to write a book.
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Numerous useful utensils and advice for the conception, rough drawing and fine-tuning of creative works

Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.

Precise, compact and refined with an adequately equal chapter length, Clark delivers a well-filled tool case with tools for big and small projects. Whether for non-specialists, hobbyists or contemporaries who have turned their passion into a profession. Any likely target group can learn s
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is a comprehensive writing guide filled with fundamental and thoughtful writing strategies that are useful for every writer regardless of their age or experience. Clark has an ability to discuss best writing practices without being rigid, and his undeniable passion for the craft is infectious. Writing Tools is a book that I plan to return to time and time again when I need a reminder of what’s in my toolbox and which tools need to be sharpened.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best technical book on writing that I’ve read.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Roy Peter Clark's tools are all helpful reminders or ideas. These are the most helpful:
Have A Mission Statement - for your piece and writing life.
Gold Coins - reward your reader along the way.
Build Work Around a key questions - what is the purpose, the why.
Save String - you can reuse or re-purpose previous writings, even if they weren't used.
Build A Ladder - move up and down from the concrete to the abstract.
Choose a number - one is truth, two is division, three is inclusion, more than thre
Dec 11, 2013 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 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 writing
Aug 05, 2010 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
Rebecca Clark
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
How is this not required reading for all writers? All students? All teachers of writing? LOVED IT. Stealing so many this year...and the best part is you barely have to think of how you'll take his fantastic structure in each chapter and mold it into a mini-lesson pronto -- or keep right alongside you for writing conferences. STELLAR. Still hoping to run into him each summer we're in St. Pete.
Ray Charbonneau
Sep 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the best ways to procrastinate is to read about writing, instead of actually writing.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
A very good book, I’ve learned a couple of anecdotes. I like the fact it can successfully speak to different kind of writers: journalist, novelist or any other writer.

I was surprised to see how long it took me to finish it, probably because the short and dense chapters leave you pondering after each one.

Logically this book should be read slowly and with practice in between, and not like me, reading it as a regular book.

All in all, it’s good, it’s positive, but I did find it a bit too much Am
S.C. Barrus
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
This book was everything I hoped it would be. 50 tools for writers ranging from sentence structure techniques to research and preparation for the big book.

I felt like I became a better writer by the time I reached the 20th tool, which is a testament to how useful these strategies are. There were a few lessons I was able to apply right away, others that took some thought and gestation, and still others that were lost in the wealth of information. I'll be reading this one again, I'm sure.

So if you
Cecily Winter
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read the 10th edition of this book in paperback, which has an extra section to make it 55 tools.
Overall, I found Mr. Clark's guide to writing "tools" an incredibly comprehensive reminder of what I already know (and often forget in the heat of composition) and a template for improving productivity. I heartily recommend it to all readers, especially those puzzled about the techniques to create a more effective and/or germane writing style. As a former academic, I can attest to the fact that not
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoy reading books on writing and I will be jumping into this again many times this year. It's a wonderful resource for any teacher or writer. My three favourite things about it:

1) Contains the wisdom of other books pared down to concise chapters.
2) Applies to all types & styles of writing (and has quotes from professionals in many fields)
3) Activities at the end of each chapter (with variable strengths & weaknesses, but a teacher could tweak some great activities from many of these strategie
Jenny Liu
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was the textbook used for one of my writing courses in university– and that course changed my life.

Writing Tools is an excellent little handbook writers should keep with them throughout their career. Every time I'm "stuck" on my writing, I'll try to flip open this book and, hopefully, receive enough power to pick up my pen again.

Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to write. Wether it's fiction or non fiction, from novels to college essays, you can benefit from this book.

Maybe the last section is a little bit less interesting, and I admit that I skimmed through it, but the first two sections are gold.

Really good read. worth having it and going back to it from time to time.
Scott Wozniak
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books on writing I've read. It manages to offer specific advice and practical tools--while still providing deep principles, encouraging you to think more clearly rather than just follow rules blindly. For example, each "tool" comes with a variety of examples, but almost always both how it is applied to fiction and journalism. Well written (you'd hope so) and very useful.
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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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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
50 likes · 14 comments
“Everyone should read, we say, but we act as if only those with special talent should write.” 9 likes
“All of us possess a reading vocabulary as big as a lake but draw from a writing vocabulary as small as a pond. The good news is that the acts of searching and gathering always expand the number of usable words.” 8 likes
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