Writing Tools is generally an organized classic guidebook of four parts: “Nuts and Bolts,” “Special Effects,” Blueprints for Stories,” and “Useful Habits.” filled with compilation of 50 essential strategies, examples, and activities for better writing which best applies to journalism and literature.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Click for rating system)
Other famous books by Roy Peter Clark: How to Write Short, The Glamour of Grammar, Coaching Writers
Writing Tools is the first book I read about writing and the first one I read from Clark. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve read tons of chunks of articles online, but this is my first time reading an actual book about a certain topic.
The book contains 50 tools – not rules – that can make writing better. Meaning, it doesn’t teach proper grammar, subject-verb agreement or spelling, but rather how to utilize what you already know and expand on that. So if you’re looking for something that teaches you proper basics, this book should come second to mind.
The subtitle of the book, 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, is misleading. As mentioned in the first part of this full review, it says strategies, which honestly does not seem to prove that- tips would sound more appropriate. Another thing is the word every, which encouraged me into getting the book, only to find out it’s closer to fiction writing, while examples used are geared towards journalism and literary writing.
The first 1/3 of the book, I wasn’t able to put the book down. I even praised it to my brother saying how nice of a refresher the book is. It contained a good amount of information that even though a good 90% of it I was already doing, Clark was able to explain why the tools actually work, what it looks like if it isn’t used, and how they were previously used by sharing works of famous writers and authors.
However, nearing the middle and the rest of the book, the tools focused more on literary writing, that for someone like me who prefers writing nonfiction, was only able to grab a spoonful of information from the rest of the chapters. I wasn’t able to finish reading the book but scanned through chapters while eyeing whatever I can possibly use in my own writing because I feel like forcing myself into reading each and every word would make me not go through any more of my pending reads and even lower the rating of this book.
If my enthusiasm in reading the first parts is unparalleled, that went down the drain after 1/3 as I realized there’s just too much examples of works I don’t really care about. Don’t get me wrong, I read fiction, and I’m fond of journalism too as his examples show. Clark was able to justify why he used each example for each tool, but it made me feel like I was rummaging through random and torn pages of a fiction section in a library with no direction to an ending. Somehow it felt like, he was trying too much to prove his point of its effect in every tool by using too much examples. Half of the time, I didn’t even read o the examples any more and proceeded with what he has to say instead.
My frustration on the contents heightened because the book is not as organized as expected. The tools could have been arranged in a better way so the information doesn’t go up and down in terms of usage and its intensity, especially to newer writers. The most content you can get from comes from the introduction of each part, before the example he shows. With that, I think cutting Writing Tools in half and killing a lot of unnecessary contents might produce better quality of a book- one that I might actually read every word. Though I must admit that some of the examples he used made me understand the tool better. But I stand with the thought that he still used too much examples.
One thing I appreciate about this book is a quick guide at the back, summarizing every part of each chapter for easy reference. It comes in handy