The Writer's Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing (Paperback)
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“Unique and thorough, Warner’s handbook could turn any determined reader into a regular Malcolm Gladwell.” —Booklist
For anyone aiming to improve their skill as a writer, a revolutionary new approach to establishing robust writing practices inside and outside the classroom, from the author of Why They Can’t Write
After a decade of teaching writing using the same methods he’d experienced as a student many years before, writer, editor, and educator John Warner realized he could do better. Drawing on his classroom experience and the most persuasive research in contemporary composition studies, he devised an innovative new framework: a step-by-step method that moves the student through a series of writing problems, an organic, bottom-up writing process that exposes and acculturates them to the ways writers work in the world.
The time is right for this new and groundbreaking approach. The most popular books on composition take a formalistic view, utilizing “templates” in order to mimic the sorts of rhetorical moves academics make. While this is a valuable element of a writing education, there is room for something that speaks more broadly. The Writer’s Practice invites students and novice writers into an intellectually engaging, active learning process that prepares them for a wider range of academic and real-world writing and allows them to become invested and engaged in their own work.
About the Author
John Warner has more than twenty years’ experience teaching college-level writing, working with a range of students on developmental writing through graduate-level studies. He has taught many different types of writing, from composition, fiction, and narrative nonfiction to technical and humor writing. A contributing writer at Inside Higher Ed, he has become a national voice on writing pedagogy and writes a weekly column on books and reading for the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of five books. An editor-at-large at McSweeney’s, he has worked with writers who have gone on to publish in outlets including the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the Guardian.
“Warner generously offers useful hints for improving nonfiction writing. . . . Warner’s style reads like informal, intelligent conversation founded on a genuine desire to share what he knows, and his helpful book will serve as a trusty companion to writers on their own or in class.”
“An essential guidebook in or outside the classroom for anyone who wants to think, act, and communicate as a writer.”
“In this uber-handy guide, veteran rhetorician Warner invites readers to sharpen their written communication skills. . . . The guide is well-organized and extremely readable, infused with the perfect amount of Warner’s personality and experiences. Unique and thorough, Warner’s handbook could turn any determined reader into a regular Malcolm Gladwell.”
“In The Writer’s Practice, John Warner invites us on a quest. Quite literally—the book is no passive read, but instead an interactive journey. Warner lays out a map of writing challenges and puzzles (he calls them ‘experiences’), provides tools for the odyssey, and keeps up a friendly, encouraging banter throughout. The experiences stretch one’s writing practice in compelling ways, covering a wide variety of genres and skills. Completed collectively or selectively, the practices would assuredly benefit students, professionals, or anyone who desires to improve their writing.”
—Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Assumption College, author of The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion
“Think you can’t write? John Warner disagrees. In his carefully plotted guide to better writing, Warner argues that with focused practice, you CAN improve. So can your students. The Writer’s Practice offers an easy-to-follow series of lessons that, while prompting you to write, build essential writing muscles. An ideal book for anyone new to teaching writing or for aspiring writers keen to improve their craft.”
—Carol Jago, long-time high school English teacher, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, and associate director of the California Reading and Literature Project, UCLA
“A fast and fun guide to what matters in writing (spoiler: attention to audience and purpose), covering everything from academic papers and business reports to travel guides, memoirs, jokes and even obituaries. Warner writes for readers, and they’ll love him for it—plus they’ll learn to do the same.”
—Daniel F. Chambliss, Eugene M. Tobin Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Hamilton College, and co-author of How College Works
“With its focus on doing rather than explaining, The Writer’s Practice invites collaboration. Whatever route readers takes through the book (and Warner outlines several possibilities), they will encounter new and challenging authorial tasks, helpfully contextualized. Working through the various sections, writers will practice the “attitudes, skills, habit of mind, and knowledge” that Warner positions as critical to effective writing. The end product will be a sort of co-authored text, reflecting Warner’s goals and methods, and the reader’s effort and growth. Adaptable for classroom use but just as valuable for solo practitioners, The Writer’s Practice is an indispensable guide for writers and instructors alike.”
—Susan Schorn, Writing Program Coordinator, School of Undergraduate Studies, University of Texas–Austin
“John Warner’s approach to nonfiction merges his experience as a creative writer and his expertise as a teacher of college composition. Rather than see creative and academic writing as opposed, Warner encourages the aspiring nonfiction writer to adopt a dual perspective: Analytical writing can be like a dialogue. A memory can be held up to the test of research. Too many writing tasks ask the student to regard their writing at a great distance, as if poking something vaguely distasteful or even dangerous. Warner’s book encourages students to bring non-fiction writing closer to them, to embrace its complexity, its challenge, and its importance to their own lives.”
—Catherine Prendergast, Professor, Dept. of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“Practice? Writer’s practice? Who’s a writer?? You?? Me??? Claiming that everyone is a writer, experienced writer and writing teacher John Warner shares his insights about writing. It’s not magic, but it takes practice—not a list of rules—to write well. He guides novices and even more seasoned writers to think about what they are trying to accomplish, and then how to make it happen. It’s not the usual school-writing, thank goodness, so students and those guiding them will find it refreshing and even, possibly, enlightening. In his I’m-in-love-with-writing approach, Warner can’t be stopped from sharing every trick he’s stumbled upon. We all write. We can all write better. It’s hard, and fun, and will change the way you look at communicating, and possibly the way you think about everything.”
—Susan D. Blum, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Notre Dame
“In The Writer’s Practice, writer and writing teacher John Warner confesses: ‘There’s no one right way to write.’ Throughout this how-to volume on nonfiction writing, Warner remains grounded in this paradox by avoiding templates while guiding writers as well as would-be writers and teachers through the questions and problems that all writers navigate in the pursuit of writing well. This book is a gift and everyone learning to write (thus, everyone), or seeking ways to teach writing better, must add this work to their essential bookshelf.”
—P.L. Thomas, professor of Education, Furman University, and author of Trumplandia: Unmasking Post-Truth America and Teaching Writing as Journey, Not Destination: Essays Exploring What “Teaching Writing” Means
“While most writing textbooks devote a chapter to the rhetorical situation, John Warner’s The Writer’s Practice is the rare book whose activities center on the idea that good writing responds to the demands of its situation. Presenting a variety of authentic writing tasks, Warner’s book shows students how to adapt their writing to address different audiences, even if that audience is oneself.”
—Chris Warnick, College of Charleston