Thursday, June 05, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About Writing & Preaching

I enjoy writing and preaching, but I always wish I was better at both. Some of my frustration is due to how often I have to write and present something new. Cranking out stuff week after week is a challenge. I never feel like I've done as well as I could. On the other hand, that frequency has forced me to keep thinking, reading, listening, and writing no matter how I feel. It's taught me how to have a plan and routine for writing.

I find books on writing to be filled with helpful insights that bear upon preaching and teaching. I recently ordered Roy Peter Clark's book, Writing Tools, because even a cursory reading of the book's table of contents proved to be interesting and helpful. If you write, or teach, or preach, I bet you will agree. I'm looking forward to seeing how he explains each of these points. Once I read all fifty sections, I may need to just keep it handy and let it coach me over the course of a year – one chapter per week.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
by Peter Ray Clark

I. Nuts and Bolts
    1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
    2. Order words for emphasis.
    3. Activate your verbs.
    4. Be passive-aggressive.
    5. Watch those adverbs.
    6. Take it easy on the -ings.
    7. Fear not the long sentence.
    8. Establish a pattern, then give it a twist.
    9. Let punctuation control pace and space.
    10. Cut big, then small.

II. Special Effects
    11. Prefer the simple over the technical.
    12. Give key words their space.
    13. Play with words, even in serious stories.
    14. Get the name of the dog.
    15. Pay attention to names.
    16. Seek original images.
    17. Riff on the creative language of others.
    18. Set the pace with sentence length.
    19. Vary the lengths of paragraphs.
    20. Choose the number of elements with a purpose in mind.
    21. Know when to back off and when to show off.
    22. Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
    23. Tune your voice.

III. Blueprints
    24. Work from a plan.
    25. Learn the difference between reports and stories.
    26. Use dialogue as a form of action.
    27. Reveal traits of character.
    28. Put odd and interesting things next to each other.
    29. Foreshadow dramatic events or powerful conclusions.
    30. To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers.
    31. Build your work around a key question.
    32. Place gold coins along the path.
    33. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
    34. Write from different cinematic angles.
    35. Report and write for scenes.
    36. Mix narrative modes.
    37. In short pieces of writing, don’t waste a syllable.
    38. Prefer archetypes to stereotypes.
    39. Write toward an ending.

IV. Useful Habits
    40. Draft a mission statement for your work.
    41. Turn procrastination into rehearsal.
    42. Do your homework well in advance.
    43. Read for both form and content.
    44. Save string.
    45. Break long projects into parts.
    46. Take interest in all crafts that support your work.
    47. Recruit your own support group.
    48. Limit self-criticism in early drafts.
    49. Learn from your critics.
    50. Own the tools of your craft.

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