My Virtual Notebook: Writing Tips from Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark

I just read Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. Here are the writing tips that I learned:

1. You can write long sentences as long as you begin them with the subject and verb.

2. Delay the subject and verb to create suspense.

3. “2-3-1 tool of emphasis” end with the strongest word, start with the second strongest word, put the weak word in the middle.

4. Prefer active verbs.

5. Use passive verbs if action is being done to the subject. Subject=”victim” of verb

6. George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” argues that politicians use the passive voice to mask the terrible events.

7. Don’t use adverbs to strengthen a verb. Use adverbs to change the meaning of the verb.

  • “Smile happily”=strengthen verb
  • “Smile sadly”=change meaning of the verb

8. Take out -ings

9. Parallelism’s “Boom, boom, bang.” Follow a pattern, then end it with a twist.

  • “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”
  • “Peter, Paul, and Mary”
  • “Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll”

10. The numbers game of a sentence.

  • One idea= “power”
  • Two ideas= “comparison and contrast”
  • Three ideas=”completeness, wholeness, roundness”
  • Four or more ideas=”inventory, compile, expand”

11. Write cinematically.

  • Aerial view=overview of world
  • Establishing shot=describe setting and establish mood
  • Middle distance= describe key players
  • Close-up=character’s face
  • Extreme close-up=sharp focus on specific detail ex: eye twitched

12. Different kinds of endings:

  • “Closing the circle”= end reminds us of the beginning
  • “Tieback”= “tie ending to some odd or offbeat element in the body of the story”
  • “The time frame”=story moves with time and ends with last event
  • “The space frame”=story moves through different places and ends with the last location
  • “The payoff”=”satisfying ending”
  • “The epilogue=”story ends but life goes on”
  • “Problem and solution”=problem is solved
  • “The apt quote”=ends with a character saying something that sums up the story
  • “Look to the future”=imagining future events and consequences
  • “Mobilize the reader”=inspires readers to do something

13. Write a mission-vision statement for your writing. What do you want to write about? What is your purpose for writing about this topic?

14. The best way to get over writer’s block is to lower your standards and just write.

15. You are not procrastinating; you are simply “rehearsing” stories in your head.

16. Collect information about topics that interest you and save them. Fill one box for one topic. Fill another box for another topic.

17. Writing blueprint=”Idea. Collect. Focus. Draft. Clarify.”

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