I’ve been looking for a book on writing for a while now. I picked up ‘Everything I know about writing’ by John Marsden mainly because I’ve read his work before and he’s written some of my favourite books. Unlike ‘bird by bird’, by Anne Lamont, this book is more about the tools of writing, and Marsden gives concrete examples of his points. It’s a short book, at 195 pages, but it covers a surprising amount of ground. He uses examples of writing from himself, his students, and other books to demonstrate his points with humour and insight.

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When I was flicking through the book in the store the examples stood out. Some snippets are small, a sentence or two, others cover a whole page. He gives examples of good and bad writing, and these were the most helpful part of the book for me. Throughout he gives many examples of books that do certain things particularly well. If you’re looking for more examples or information, this book gives you many places to start looking.

He covers topics from humour, ambiguity, word choice, to things like plot, structure and pacing, psychology and imagination. Most topics are covered in a page or two. Marsden doesn’t belabour his points, and it keeps the book moving fast. It was surprisingly fun to read. I found myself having trouble putting it down. I didn’t expect a book on writing to be so entertaining. He moves quickly, but he makes his points clearly enough that I was excited to go back and edit my work and put his suggestions into practice. I don’t know if my writing will improve, but I’ll enjoy the process.

The most useful parts for me were the sections on powerful language and adjectives. These sections were pratical enough that I already have a good idea of what I need to look for in my writing and what to do to improve it. Other parts, such as the section on endings, I was already aware of but hadn’t thought about explicitly. The book ends with 600 writing topics. I don’t usually do little writing exercises like the ones listed, but reading through the list a few jumped out at me that I think I’ll try.

‘Everything I know about writing’ is short, practical, funny and full of examples and suggestions. It’s surprisingly entertaining, and I read a few of the funnier examples out to my husband. Most importantly though, its made me excited to get back to writing.

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