Monday, March 7, 2011

Make Your Words Work - Indispensable Books For Writers

Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing-For Fiction and NonfictionIf I had to choose just one book that would help improve my writing, Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques for Effective Writing for Fiction and Nonfiction by Gary Provost would probably be it.

What does Provost mean by his title?

"By writing that works, I mean writing that does the job it's supposed to do, whether that job is to inform, entertain, anger or instruct. Writing does not work if it only entertains when it is supposed to instruct. It does not work if it only angers when it is supposed to educate. Whether a piece of writing has been put together to convey factual information or to create images in a story, it should be judged not on good grammar or adherence to the rules of composition, (both of which are tools, not goals),  but on how well it does its job. Does it  work? Does this word reveal my character's feeling? Does this sentence convey the popularity of stock car racing? Does this paragraph communicate the feeling of despair these refugees have?"

 Make Your Words Work is down to earth from page 1. "Can Writing Be Taught?" he asks. "No," he says, "throw this book away." Provost's writing is conversational, easy to understand and witty. His examples are clearly illustrated and  entertaining as well as instructional. The book is broken up into workable chunks with exercises to solidify the concepts in your brain.

Not only does he cover the "usual suspects" of dialogue, description, viewpoint, pace and characterization, he talks about some of the unsung heroes of writing--things like music, unity, credibility, subtlety, tension, proportion and form.

Some of my favorite sections include, "Putting Description in Motion," "Use Strong Verbs," the entire chapter on Tension and...oh heck, the whole darn book. I like to use this book as a checklist when I edit my work, "am I varying the construction of my sentences? Can I milk the dialogue some more? Do I need to reorganize for better unity? Are my verbs pulling their weight?"

Provost teaches you how to turn your words into willing employees who make your writing clearer, more precise, more fun to read--and publishable! This book will make your words not just grip your readers, but pull them into an embrace and lead them on a tango across your pages.

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