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: 9780316481885
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 01/21/2020
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 299,476
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(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 Murder your darlings Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch 13

2 Find and cut the clutter William Zinsser 20

3 Learn to live inside words Donald Hail 27

4 Shape a sentence for the desired effect George Campbell 34

5 Work from a plan John McPhee 41

Part II Voice And Style 47

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

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

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

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

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

Part III Confidence And Identity 97

11 Learn the steps of the writing process Donald Murray 99

12 Keep writing; things will get better Anne Lamott 108

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

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

15 Develop the writing habit Stephen King 139

Part IV Storytelling and Character 147

16 Understand the value of storytelling Brian Boyd 149

17 Prefer the complex human narrator James Wood 160

18 Write for sequence, then for theme Northrop Frye 170

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

20 Add dimension to characters E. M. Forster 185

21 Report for story Gay Talese Tom Wolfe 193

Part V Rhetoric and Audience 203

22 Anticipate the needs of readers Louise M. Rosenblatt 205

23 Embrace rhetoric as the source of language power Quintilian 213

24 Influence the emotional responses of your audience Aristotle 220

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

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

Part VI Mission and Purpose 253

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

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

29 Write to delight and instruct Horace 273

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

31 Choose advocacy over propaganda Aldous Huxley George Orwell Neil Postman 291

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

Afterword 311

Acknowledgments 313

Appendix: Books by Roy Peter Clark 316

Bibliography 319

Index 329

Customer Reviews

Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Mediadrome 5 months ago
I like that each chapter is devoted to one (or sometimes two) books on writing, and that Clark distilled them each down to only their most important points. For someone like me, who hardcore sucks at writing succinctly (whaaaa? I know…), I really jammed on the first chapter which covers On the Art of Writing by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Quiller-Couch also originated the phrase which gave this book its name – “murder your darlings,” referring to distilling your work down to only what is needed. I found it to be the most useful bit of the book – but I think there is definitely something here for everyone. “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it–whole heartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.“ ON THE ART OF WRITING BY SIR ARTHUR QUILLER-COUCH All of the books on writing you have ever likely considered reading are touched on here – and probably even a few you’re unfamiliar with. He even covers Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. This alone will likely appeal to a lot of people. Although – unpopular opinion time – I don’t like the way King writes, I don’t deny that he’s clearly doing something right. You don’t get a bazillion mega-fans or book deals or movie adaptations if you’re bad at what you do, right? Rating: I liked this book a lot. And like I mentioned, I’ve already gotten some good use out of it. I’ll probably buy it to add to my collection of ‘I have a bad case of imposter syndrome and need these to help me feel like I know what the hell I’m doing’ books.