Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser

Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser

by Roy Peter Clark
Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser

Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser

by Roy Peter Clark


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From one of America's most influential teachers, a collection of the best writing advice distilled from fifty language books — from Aristotle to Strunk and White.

With so many excellent writing guides lining bookstore shelves, it can be hard to know where to look for the best advice. Should you go with Natalie Goldberg or Anne Lamott? Maybe William Zinsser or Stephen King would be more appropriate. Then again, what about the classics — Strunk and White, or even Aristotle himself?

Thankfully, your search is over. In Murder Your Darlings, Roy Peter Clark, who has been a beloved and revered writing teacher to children and Pulitzer Prize winners alike for more than thirty years, has compiled a remarkable collection of more than 100 of the best writing tips from fifty of the best writing books of all time.

With a chapter devoted to each key strategy, Clark expands and contextualizes the original author's suggestions and offers anecdotes about how each one helped him or other writers sharpen their skills. An invaluable resource for writers of all kinds, Murder Your Darlings is an inspiring and edifying ode to the craft of writing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316481878
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 01/05/2021
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 505,363
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Roy Peter Clark is senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, one of the most prestigious schools for journalists in the world. He has taught writing at every level — from schoolchildren to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors — for more than forty years.

A writer who teaches and a teacher who writes, he has authored or edited nineteen books on writing and journalism, including The Art of X-Ray Reading, How to Write Short, Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, and Help! for Writers. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he is considered a garage-band legend.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Writing Book about Writing Books 3

Part I Language and Craft 11

1 Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: Murder your darlings. 13

2 William Zinsser: Find and cut the clutter. 20

3 Donald Hall: Learn to live inside words. 27

4 George Campbell: Shape a sentence for the desired effect. 34

5 John McPhee: Work from a plan. 41

Part II Voice and Style 47

6 William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White: Recognize two contradictory meanings of style. 49

7 Gary Provost and Ursula K. Le Guin: Vary sentence length to create a pleasing rhythm. 58

8 Vera John-Steiner: Use visual markings to spark your creative process. 68

9 Constance Hale and Jessie Scanlon: Tune your voice for the digital age. 78

10 Ben Yagoda: Turn the dials that adjust the way you sound as a writer. 86

Part III Confidence and Identity 97

11 Donald Murray: Learn the steps of the writing process. 99

12 Anne Lamott: Keep writing; things will get better. 108

13 Peter Elbow: Write freely to discover what you want to say. 116

14 Dorothea Brande and Brenda Ueland: Say it loud: "I am a writer." 125

15 Stephen King: Develop the writing habit. 139

Part IV Storytelling and Character 147

16 Brian Boyd: Understand the value of storytelling. 149

17 James Wood: Prefer the complex human narrator. 160

18 Northrop Frye: Write for sequence, then for theme. 170

19 Lajos Egri: Distill your story into five words-maybe three. 178

20 E. M. Forster: Add dimension to characters. 185

21 Gay Talese and Tom Wolfe: Report for story. 193

Part V Rhetoric and Audience 203

22 Louise M. Rosenblatt: Anticipate the needs of readers. 205

23 Quintilian: Embrace rhetoric as the source of language power. 213

24 Aristotle: Influence the emotional responses of your audience. 220

25 Vivian Gornick and Mary Karr: Sign a social contract with the reader. 229

26 Rudolf Flesch and Robert Gunning: Write to the level of your reader-and a little higher. 239

Part VI Mission and Purpose 253

27 S. I. Hayakawa: Learn the strategies that make reports reliable. 255

28 Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer: Write to make your soul grow. 265

29 Horace: Write to delight and instruct. 273

30 Edward R. Murrow: Become the eyes and ears of the audience. 282

31 Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and Neil Postman: Choose advocacy over propaganda. 291

32 Natalie Goldberg and Charles Johnson: Be a writer-and so much more. 299

Afterword 311

Acknowledgments 313

Appendix: Books Roy Peter Clark 316

Bibliography 319

Index 329

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