Must reading for writers, Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Writers

Posted November 24th @ 12:20 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

clark-writing-tools-two-5Tuesday’s writing tip for authors

Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer belongs in the library of every business owner or social media marketer who depends on their writing skills to market their business.

And, doesn’t that apply to every entrepreneur as well as every career-oriented employee?

Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer has joined The Essential Don Murray and Jack Hart’s A Writer’s Coach on the top level of the bookshelf near my computer. Each book is a “must read.” Each complements, rather than competes with, the others.

Writing Tools is a friendly, informative, and thought-provoking series of essays, examples, and exercises that will change the way you write… and the way you think about writing. It’s a model of reader-friendly brevity, empathy, and style.

4 boxes of writing tools

Let’s start with Writing Tool’s structure and organization. The book carries the reader, in the author’s words, “on a journey from the subatomic to the metaphysical level, from where to put the subject and verb to how to find your mission and purpose.”

The author goes on to explain the contents and relevance of the four boxes:

  1. Nuts and bolts: strategies for making meaning at the word, sentence, and paragraph levels.
  2. Special effects: tools of economy, clarity, originality, and persuasion.
  3. Blueprints: ways of organizing and building stories and reports.
  4. Useful habits: routines for a lifetime of productive writing.

This is most definitely not a textbook, however. Chapter, or tools, range from 4 to 6 pages–including the workshop exercises at the end of each chapter.

Favorite tool, “on running a marathon”

Two of the continuing refrains throughout Writing Tools are the importance of breaking long projects into parts and the benefits of daily progress. In Tool 45, Break long projects into parts, Roy Peter Clark creates the perfect metaphor to drive the lesson home:

Where writers gather, I often ask this question: How many of you have run a marathon? In a group of one hundred, maybe one or two will raise a hand.

If properly trained and motivated, how many of you could run twenty-six miles? A half dozen more.

What if I gave you fifty-two days to do it, so you only had to run a half mile a day? Most of the hands in the room go up.

That’s the type of reading you can look forward to in Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools which is available in multiple formats, including hard cover, paperback,’s Kindle e-book format, and a spiral-bound format that lays flat.  (Note, I subdivided the original paragraph quoted above for easier on-screen reading.)

A final bonus: the 4 toolboxes and 50 tools are summarized as a handy reference for copying and keeping in your wallet or by your keyboard.

Background and workshop

Writing Tools originated as a year-long series of blog posts on the Poynter Institute website. The Poynter Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to training journalists and media leaders. I used to read each new blog post with great interest, hoping a book would result.

Roy Peter Clark dedicated Writing Tools to Donald M. Murray and Minnie Mae Murray, whom he calls “godparents to a nation of writers.” (Don was an original member of Published & Profitable’s editorial board.)

Florida workshop

If you live in or near St. Petersburg, Florida, Roy Peter Clark is conducting an all day writing workshop on December 12, 2009. All participants will receive copies of Writing Tools.

Writing Tools is is best summarized by the three words that end the author’s introduction:

Learn and enjoy.

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