Book Category: Writing,

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (book summary)

Author: Roy Peter Clark
Life Changing Principles
Quality of Writing
Overall Value
pros: Fast, helpful, great for beginners
cons: Can be basic at times
overall rating



From the basics of writing to stylistic advice, Peter Roy Clark has created 50 chapters that cover a wide (WIDE!) range of styles and writing purposes. The goal? To teach you how to write potent, memorable, not-stinky stuff.

This is a highly straight-forward and practical book on writing, breaking down advice for readers who may be unfamiliar with some basics like “avoid cliche phrases” and “beware adjectives!” No high-level rhetoric on style here, and a zippy little read.


  • You can successfully use “theatrical” or fictional elements in your writing, such as cliffhangers, to add depth to any genre or topic.
  • Writing should work towards a distinctive voice: the best writers have a recognizable voice that you can distinguish through their writing, no matter how short.
  • Adverbs are poison. 
  • You should surround yourself with a cast of different kinds of editors and writers: some for support, some for editing, some for sound advice. The main point is never to go about it alone.


  • Find more reading/editing friends to help offer insight and develop your style.
  • Practice writing passages that show 100% of the time, never tell outright.
  • Work on writing endings which keep the reader wanting to go to the next chapter, paragraph, or sentence.
  • Consider using a “filmmaking” lense while writing in order to create visualizations more accurately.
  • Murder adjectives where possible.


For dramatic variation, write a sentence with the subject and verb near the end.

Putting strong stuff at the beginning and end helps writers hide weaker stuff in the middle.

At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in it.

Use the long sentence to describe something long. Let form follow function.

You will punctuate with power and purpose when you begin to consider pace and space.

A well-placed comma points to where the writer would pause if he read the passage aloud.

Make conscious decisions on how fast you’d like the reader to move. Perhaps you want readers to zoom across the landscape. Or to tiptoe through a technical explanation. Punctuate accordingly.

Brevity comes from selection, not compression, a lesson that requires lifting blocks from the work.

Write a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.

The mojo of three offers a greater sense of completeness than four or more. Once we add a fourth or fifth detail, we have achieved escape velocity, breaking out of the circle of wholeness.