Five Fast Steps to Better Writing
by Barbara Florio Graham

a review by Sharon Melnyk, University of California, Berkeley

Portable and affordable! An effective teaching model for the novice and experienced writer alike.

As I began to read and work through Five Fast Steps to Better Writing by Barbara Florio Graham, I asked myself how I had learned to write. To me, becoming a writer seemed a gradual, unintentional process, accomplished mostly as an aside to other endeavors. Then I found a much better explanation at the beginning of chapter five: I am an avid reader, and have always preferred writers of literary stature to those found on supermarket racks.  Graham calls this "unconscious learning" and urges it on the reader as a successful method for improving the skill of writing.  "If you immerse yourself in fine prose," she writes, "a style will emerge, combining an imitation of what you have read with your own natural voice."

I felt better knowing that my writing ability came from my own efforts rather than some fluke of nature. But I also felt cheated that I had not previously had the benefit of the advice and instruction Graham provides (quite delightfully, with considerable humor) in this text. Here is a structured system that can be employed simply, or with considerable complexity, depending on one's time and taste.  Apply the five steps without detail or flourish, or enhance their use by a review of the finer points of grammar as well as a thorough discussion of the common dilemmas faced by both the novice and experienced writer.  

There is always room for improvement, of course, no matter how well you write.  After reading the first two chapters, I followed the instructions in "Step Two: Draft," and wrote down ideas, uncensored, for a project that had proven baffling in my previous attempts. Rather than sit staring at my computer screen for much longer than I cared to admit, I expressed my thoughts quickly, knowing that the concrete steps of "revise," "strengthen," and "polish" were to follow. The eventual product was a better composition achieved in less time, and I was left with a feeling of glee knowing I would use this model again and again. 

The title of Graham's book doesn't hint at the additional, and invaluable, writers' resources contained in the appendices. They include a list of the essential points of copyright, a discussion of self-publishing, guidance on accessing creativity, and a humorous essay detailing the story of the infamous feline, Simon Teakettle, whose name graces the publishing company responsible for giving us Five Fast Steps to Better Writing, a very accessible and very useful guide for writers.