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Make Your Words Work: Proven Techniques For Effective Writing--For Fiction and Nonfiction

Writer’s Digest Books, hardcover and soft, 1990. An Author’s Guild BackinPrint book.

Combines top sellers from Writer's Digest Books: MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT: A Guide To Writing That Works, 1980 and BEYOND STYLE: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing, 1988

Timeless, entertaining, easy-to-absorb instruction for pre-published and published writers.

Gary Provost was a poor Boston street kid with a dream of success as a writer. He never went to college yet grew up to become “arguably, the leading teacher of writing-for-publication in the United States.” Through practice and observation he came to learn what writing works, and what writing does not. And that’s what he shares in this book.

Gary is candid and conversational. You feel as though he’s speaking directly to you. He is. He teaches with humor and in bite-sized portions to help you get a firm grip on the craft of the writer. You are taken through all the basics of technique and style as seen through a Gary Provost lens. You learn, or review, such topics as the hidden meaning of words, description, voice, characterization, viewpoint, etc. Sprinkled throughout the book are Exercises (Think: Games) to tickle your creativity and help you put the techniques and principles into action. Your articles, stories, reports, novels, business books, love letters—indeed whatever you write—will gain immediate effectiveness and impact as you apply Gary’s proven, universal rules, tips, and ideas.

Then Gary moves on to the more intangible elements of excellent writing. Here, he simplifies the complex with ease and humor, and rubs away the magic. Your story sense develops dramatically as you explore such relationships as form and content, proportion and pace, slant and theme; and concepts such as unity, credibility, subtlety, pacing, tension, and originality. Light bulbs go off. You, the creative artist, learn to apply your imagination to see, sense, and serve up unique, exciting, surprising elements for your reader.

You understand the work is not easy, but with the help of this book you’ll be on your way to the quality of writing that pulls your reader deep into the dream. From the very first word.

EXCERPT FROM THE INTRODUCTION (first published in 1990 by Writer’s Digest Books):

Writing dreams do come true.

For many years I was the person who was always doing what you have just done, picking up books about writing technique, hoping they would help me get closer to that fantasy of being a published writer. I was a dreadful writer, I really was. But in the past fifteen years I have published five novels, five books for writers, a sports book, a thousand magazine articles, short stories and newspaper articles, two poems, and four true crime books, one of which was made into a movie. I have won the National Jewish Book Award without being Jewish, and I came close to being the new Ann Landers, without being female. In my twenties I couldn’t even get a word published. Now writing dreams come true for me every day.

They come true because I learned how to write well, and in this book I will tell you what I have learned about good writing. My teachers have been my own mistakes, occasional editors who have been kind enough to set me straight, and my students, several of whom have generously allowed me to publish excerpts from their work.

What you will learn here applies to your fiction and your nonfiction. There is nothing here that should be discarded by the writer who works exclusively in one form or the other. The best fiction writers have influenced the greatest journalists of the present, and they, in turn, have been influencing the new writers of fiction. Increasingly, the difference between nonfiction and fiction is one of content, not of form or technique.

There is only one quality that I ask you to bring to this book. Humility about your writing. You cannot succeed without it. You must have the humility to know that writing that looks clever to you might be boring, that something beautifully written might be unnecessary, that something very personal to you might be meaningless to distant readers. You must accept the fact that a trained editor might see in your work liabilities that you thought were assets. And you must be capable of erasing any sentence you have written, if informed and unprejudiced voices can lead you to the truth about it.

If you can do that, the battle is already won. Read the book. Do the exercises. Read the book again. When we are done you will have a greater understanding of what it is that makes writing work for the reader. Your writing dreams won’t come true the next morning. Nor will they come true the following week. But if you take these lessons to heart and keep plugging away, they will come true. You will succeed as a writer just as I have succeeded, not because this book will close the gap between you and your writing dreams, but because you will have learned how to close it.