GARY PROVOST ~ "The Writer's Writer"

100 Ways To Improve Your Writing: Proven Professional Techniques for Writing With Style and Power

Whether you are a student writing a paper, a blogger writing your blog, copywriter writing an ad, a business person writing a letter, a reporter writing a news story, an author writing a short story, novel, or nonfiction book, you will find all the ways to write it better in 100 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING.

Designed for both instant reference and cover-to-cover reading, this gives you step-by-step expert advice about every aspect of writing...from inspiration to punctuation, including amusing examples of the "DO's" and "DON'Ts" of writing well.

HERE. ENJOY THIS EXAMPLE FOR ONE OF THE 100 WAYS:

VARY SENTENCE LENGTH ~

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Write music.


~ ~ ~

NOW, IT IS MY TRUE PLEASURE TO SHARE A RECENT LETTER (January, 2013) SENT TO ME IN REGARD TO GARY AND 100 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING:

ENJOY!

"For more than 30 years I have been in and out of professional writing – as a writer, a columnist, an editor, a proofreader, a typesetter, a graphic designer, a researcher, and a professor. For most of that time, my copy of 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing has been within arm’s reach. It’s as indispensable to me as Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, or The Associated Press Stylebook. Mine is a first edition (1985, paper), and its pages are dog-eared and yellow. But I refuse to let go of it. Ever. I only wish I could be as faithful to its axioms and advice as I am to my wife.

"Over the years I have won awards (most of which were undeserved) for writing, teaching, editing, and coaching. Looking back, I have to wonder how much of the simplicity and clarity I have learned to love actually originated in the pages of 100 Ways. At what point do simple tips like “Don’t explain when you don’t have to,” and “Avoid wordiness” move beyond the task of writing and begin to permeate one’s entire life? Want to teach football to a ten-year old? “Begin at the beginning.” Want to hold a college student’s attention? “Say things in a positive way . . . most of the time.” Want to get a job? “Make yourself likable.” Want to earn respect on the job? “Provide useful information.” Want your kids to listen to your advice? “Obey your own rules.” You get the idea. I’d have a hard time finding any topic in 100 Ways that cannot be extended to other areas of life, always with positive outcomes. And its effect on one’s writing is without equal.

"Thanks so much for keeping Gary’s legacy alive and changing lives. . . I am amazed at the renewed interest in quality writing that seems to be emerging among college students. I feel that Gary’s work could not be more timely than it is right now."


-- KEN DURHAM, online instructional designer for the Community Colleges of Colorado system. Journalism Adjunct, Arapahoe Community College and The Community College of Denver


*

A NOTE FROM GARY

At the conclusion of this step-by-step guide, first published in 1985, Gary shares with his readers his final tip:

I write often about writing, and that can be terrifying. Sometimes I feel as if I'm standing in front of a firing squad and The Captain will give the order to shoot as soon as I have violated my own advice. Have I used too many words to tell you not to use too any words? Is my voice too passive when I tell you to use the active voice? Is my grammar faulty when I tell you to bone up on your grammar?

It is not hard to imagine a legion of mean-spirited readers out there scanning my every word with a magnifying glass, all of them poised to leap on the first sign of contradiction. Off to their typewriters they will run, and soon my mailbox will be bent from within by a bulging bundle of letters, all of which begin, "Dear Mr. Provost, on page such and such you said so and so, but just thirty-two pages later you said so and so and such and such. Are you a moron?"

No, I'm not. Honestly. I am--dare I say it--an artist. And that is my escape hatch. Writing is art, not science, and when I finish a piece of writing, I do not review every single one of my tips. I ask, have I communicated well? Have I pleased my readers, have I given them something that is a joy to read? Have I entertained them, informed them, persuaded them, and made my thoughts clear to them? Have I given them what they wanted?

And these are the questions you must ask about all that you write. If the answers are yes, you have succeeded. If the answers are no, you have failed. Writing well is what counts.

The tips in this book encompass much of the accumulated knowledge about what writing techniques work best, which patterns of language most successfully reach and hold readers. But like all tips they should be considered carefully before being acted on.

So don't use the active voice "because it's the right way." Don't write with strong nouns and verbs "because you're supposed to." And don't maintain consistently good grammar "because only stupid people don't." Tips, not laws. Think about these tips. Apply them generally. They will guide you to successful writing.

And do something else. Accept the fact that there is good writing and bad writing. There is writing that runs, and there is writing that plods. There is writing that wakes up readers and writing that puts them to sleep. So turn to this book from time to time. Stretch your vocabulary. And, most important, develop your ear for the sound of written language. When you have done these, you will have the knowledge and the wisdom to apply the best tip of all: Use your own common sense.


GARY'S BOOKS

Non-Fiction: How-To Instruction for Writers
Filled with professional tips and a wealth of instructive examples, Gary's invaluable, easy-to-use handbook helps you solve any and all writing problems -- whether you're a student, business person or professional writer. Timeless!
Non-Fiction: How-To Instruction for Writers; Biography; True Drama/True Crime
Timeless instruction of proven techniques for effective writing. “A crystallization of Gary Provost’s writing wisdom... philosophy made practical.”
--Writer’s Digest Books
Gary's voice shines through in this, his final work of fiction -- which was to have been the first of a new comic mystery series, starring "the most likable--and unlikely--sleuth to come along in years." Originally a mass market publication by Berkley Prime Crime, it remains available as an Author's Guild BackInPrint.com trade paperback, and will soon be available to fans as an eBook from Crossroad Press. (References to BAFFLED are also in Make Your Words Work as well as in Gary's DVD / MP3 Course, the VIDEO NOVEL WORKSHOP.)

Quick Links