"Murder Your Darlings," | Reviewed by Nelson Appell
Roy Peter Clark’s “Murder Your Darlings: And Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinnser” is a joy to read. That’s important. A book distilling writing advice from over 2,399 years should, at the very least, be entertaining and engaging itself.
In 32 chapters Clark reviews over 50 writing guides containing the advice and wisdom of many accomplished authors. Some are famous—writers such as Stephen King, Aristotle, John McPhee, Kurt Vonnegut and more.
He goes a step further. Clark also covers the “gentle writing advice” of many writers who are not currently famous, and some who never were. Clark enjoys learning new writing techniques from obscure books as much as from the lauded masters.
That makes this a particularly rich reference and inspiration for writers of all forms. If there is a chapter that strikes you as particularly valuable, you can look to purchase that book yourself for a fuller picture of the author’s advice.
There is so much packed in this book. It is worth re-reading, and marking your favorite advice. John McPhee wrote from a plan, but he had the luxury of taking as much time as he wished to write his books. Stephen King recommends not only reading constantly, but including badly-written books to develop instincts on what not to do. Kurt Vonnegut writes to transform suffering, especially second-suffering (now called PTSD). Anne Lamott wants us to never get discouraged at “bad” early drafts, but to trust the process because writing progresses in stages. The snippets of advice could go on and on and on.
This book is perfect for authors, writers and anyone curious about how great writing is created.