I’m audio-reading Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark. I need to grab a copy of the print book, take notes and apply at home. Audio titles are for car listening and aren’t great for taking notes.

Three excellent quotes that I gained about writing from the intro and first chapters:

  • “Writing is a purposeful craft.”
  • “Writing tools never have to be returned.  They can be cleaned, sharpened and passed along.”
  • “Let your writing flow early; you can reach for a tool later.”

Here are the first three tools, summarized:

1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.

2. Place strong words at the beginning and end.

3. Use active, strong verbs 

Once I got used to chopping up my work, sucking out unnecessary words, and strengthening the verbs, it became a satisfying part of writing.  Usually, my draft gets better as it gets smaller.

So, I dug into my files and retrieved some writing samples for practice:

The Heaven Story — original version

My eleven-year-old daughter wrote a story.  She wrote pages and pages; it seemed to flow endlessly and effortlessly.  It was an amazing tale of a girl that went to heaven and came back.  I wondered where she got the idea. When she sat me down to read it aloud, she said, “Now, don’t cry when you hear it, or it will make me cry.”  And, at the end, we both cried. 74 words

The Heaven Story — revised version

My daughter Ava wrote a story. She scribbled pages that narrated a young girl’s round-trip journey to heaven. Where did she get her ideas? We cloistered ourselves. I awaited a private reading of her tale. “Don’t cry — that will make me cry,” she said. She read the story aloud, glanced up, and noticed my wet eyes.  60 words

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