Monday, May 01, 2006

Resources for Writing

Given the last post's response, I should focus this blog exclusively on ministry and preaching. Thanks to all the commentors who have argued and added contrast and texture to the conversation. I will come back to the imperitive of preaching soon. However, for today, I have a different bugaboo to excise from my brain: the craft of writing.

Good, clear writing is an essential skill not just for pastors, but anyone who communicates. When I write, I remember Mike Beates' exhortation trim fat from our writing -- be crisp and vigrouous in our prose for flabby writing brings no honor to God. He told us seminarians, proud of the bigness of our brains and complexity of our terms, of the scene from A River Runs Through It in which the father, helping his son with an essay, gave the paper back saying "Make it half as long." When the son returned, the father said "half as long, again." Prune ruthlessly -- make every word tell. Be intentional. At my best, I struggle to heed his instruction.

Mike was not the only voiceto contribute to my development: here are a few of my favorite teachers:

Elements of Style -- Strunk and White's classic remains my standard. If nothing else, they nag me about the use of the passive tense; it is hoped that their ruthless scrutiny of the passive will be of benefit.

On Writing Well -- William Zinnser's text takes a close second to Srunk and White. He cries out in the streets for muscular prose that grips the reader; writing that demands attention for even the most mundane. Zinnser's great gift to me was warning against flabby cliches and pompous qualifiers. One might think it plain as day that qualifiers and cliches be avoided like the plague, however there is a general tendency to sometimes rely upon such techniques when the pistons aren't all firing.

Before We Get Started -- Brett Lott writes like a celtic knot, his train of thought twisting and turning, winding through leaves and pomegrantes and the heads of strange beasts, yet always coming back the the original starting point. I'm still working through this relatively recent book, but I've already found profit from it. The first chapter, which reads almost like a Baptist sermon, hangs on the importance of those small words a, the, this, making a case for the vary care in word choice that he practices in this modern classic on writing.

Fifty Writing Tools -- Roy Peter Clark's pithy series on journalism -- filled with morsels to sweeten any writer's work.

Who has influenced your writing -- drop a comment and let me know.

Soli Deo Gloria