A sacred testament to writers of all forms and abilities, William Zinsser’s, On Writing Well, continues to thrive today as it has since its first publication in 1976. Though Zinsser emphasizes writing tools and techniques for writers of nonfiction, fiction writers reap substantial benefits as well. Just over three hundred pages, the adrenaline rush of information kept me reading from cover to cover, completing highlights and notes, in less time than it takes to cook a twenty pound turkey.

Zinsser informs us that a writer needs to treat his craft like he would any job; setting a schedule and sticking to it, even when he doesn’t feel like it. No excuse for calling in sick when you’re a writer. Like any job, a writer needs his tools by his side; a good dictionary, thesaurus, and E.B. White’s, Elements of Style.

Similar to a writer of nonfiction, a fiction writer needs to recognize the difference between clutter, or “verbal camouflage,” as Zinsser refers to it. He expresses the importance of word choice, distinguishing between nouns, active verbs, adjectives, and those poisonous adverbs. In addition, all writers need to have a command for punctuation, which he briefly reviews.

While On Writing Well, is geared for the creative nonfiction writer, Zinsser dedicates several chapters to stressing the gravity of structure in ways from which a fiction writer can surely benefit. He also points out that a good writer of any genre needs to maintain unity of POV, tense and mood, propelling the reader through comfortable paragraph lengths towards a surprise ending. He reminds us that, “the essence of writing is rewriting.”

On Writing Well is rife with examples all writers should heed. As Zinsser quotes: “You will write only as well as you make yourself write.”

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