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Recommended Reading: Clark’s 50 Writing Tools

Ready to revise? Use Roy Peter Clark’s 50 Writing Tools: Quick List to excise the bloat from your prose.

The quick list comes from Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

The quick list comes from Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark.

Self-editing is a skill that any writer can benefit from, though sometimes as writers, we don’t know what we don’t know. In other words, we struggle with precisely what to focus on to improve our writing. In times like these, we can use Roy Peter Clark’s 50 Writing Tools: Quick List as a starting point and a checklist to help us shape and hone our prose.

Based on Clark’s book, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, each tip is designed to improve either your writing or your writerly workflow.

While Clark wrote his tips with journalists in mind, there are plenty of great ideas for those who write flash fiction, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or prose. Here’s just a sample of some gold:

  • No. 2: Order words for emphasis. Place strong words at the beginning and at the end.
  • No. 7: Fear not the long sentence. Take the reader on a journey of language and meaning.
  • No. 26: Use dialogue as a form of action. Dialogue advances narrative; quotes delay it.
  • No. 29: Foreshadow dramatic events or powerful conclusions. Plant important clues early.
  • No. 34: Write from different cinematic angles. Turn your notebook into a โ€œcamera.โ€

Interested in how others self-edit? Check out out recent self-editing roundtable.

Writing Tools also offers a nifty companion podcast for your listening pleasure. Each of the 50 tools has a short (two-three minute) podcast that shares more detail on each tip and how to apply it to your writing.

Which are your favorites from Clark’s list? Which of your favorite tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. I like #40 Draft a mission statement for your work.
    To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.

    I try to define “the take away” in advance. What is the benefit to the reader if there is no “walk away value”?

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  2. Had the opportunity to hear him speak at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading when this came out. A signed copy is on my shelf. Easily one of the most useful books on writing that I have.

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  3. ‘Fear not the long sentence’ is a good one. It can be tempting to try and write in punchy, snappy style, but as long as your grammar is half decent a long and winding sentence can mix up the flow nicely.

    Also like the point about dialogue, which can add real warmth and character to a piece.

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  4. #7 Fear not the long sentence. Take the reader on a journey of language and meaning. And #23 Tune your voice. Read your drafts aloud. These two tend to go together as the best way to tell if your sentence is too long is to read it aloud. Did you lose the message by the time you finished reading? If not then it is good to go!

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  5. “Fear not the long sentence,” is quite the eye-opener for me as there are times–it comes and goes like all the seasons in my mind–where I get intimidated by the idea of prose, and as a novice writer attempting their first novel, this book is something I could… I mean, I will most definitely be checking out in the near future. Thank you.

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  6. I loved the quick list! I even printed it out and plan to make little cards to keep at my desk ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think my favorite would have to be #40 “Draft a mission statement for your work. To sharpen your learning, write about your writing.” Great piece of advice and I plan to use it immediately!

    Added the book to my must reads list and plan to check out the podcast too, thanks!

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