RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Roy Peter Clark.  2013.  How To Write Short:  Word Craft for Fast Times.  New York:  Little, Brown, and Company.Shorts_09302013

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

So. You are a boomer with a manuscript in hand terrified of having to promote a book in a new world of blogs and tweets.  What do you do?  Start by reading Roy Peter Clark’s new book, How to Write Short.

Clark writes his advice in 35 short reflections organized into two sections:  “How to Write Short” and “How to Write Short with a Purpose”.  He caps these sections off with an epilog: “A Few Final Words–441 to Be Exact”.

Clark’s first reflection focuses on getting you to open your eyes.  In a world inundated with data in the form of writing, images, and sounds, what catches your attention?  Coyly, Clark paraphrases the line from Sixth Sense.  Not, “I see dead people”, but “I see short writing”(15).  Clark collects shorts like other people collect sidewalk pennies.  In reviewing the sparse style of these shorts, he draws attention to the backstory that makes them interesting.  Shorts sparkle because they remind you of something.  A “grace note”, Clark adds, increases the sparkle by reframing the sparkle in a new, interesting way.  Or it may just offer a jolt (17-21).

I did not expect a writing book to be a page turner.  I did not expect How to Write Short would get me to look at my long writing differently.  I do expect that I will be referring back to this book in my book’s next edit. Yeah!

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