7 Writing Tips from Charles Spurgeon

sp068From lucidbooks – original source cry, and become awestruck with God with the stroke of his pen and eloquent prose. Here are seven writing tips taken from his life for aspiring writers.

1. Write to Help others
“We are very mistaken, if our work does not prove to be of the utmost value to purchasers of books…no object in view but the benefit of our brethren…it will be remuneration enough to have aided the ministers of God in the study of his word” (Sword & Trowel, March 1876).

2. Write Short
“Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.…Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify…In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short” (Sword & Trowel, September 1871).

3. Write for God
“Courteous reader, throughout another year we have endeavored, month by month, to provide for your entertainment and edification. For both, because the first is to the most of men needful to produce the second, and also because God hath joined them together, and no man should put them asunder” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875).

4. Write Clearly
“So I gathered that my sermons were clear enough to be understood by anybody who was not so conceited as to darken his own mind with pride. Now, if boys read The Sword and the Trowel it cannot be said to shoot over people’s heads, nor can it be said to be very dull and dreary” (Sword & Trowell, November 1874).

5. Write to Compel
“It was an ill day when religion became so decorous as to call dullness her companion, and mirth became so frivolous as to demand the divorce of instruction from amusement. It is not needful that magazines for Christian reading should be made up of pious platitudes, heavy discourses, and dreary biographies of nobodies: the Sabbath literature of our families might be as vivacious and attractive as the best of amusing serials, and yet as deeply earnest and profitable as the soundest of divines would desire” (Sword & Trowel, Preface, 1875).

“If the writer had possessed genius and literary ability, this might have been a highly interesting work; but as the writers’ sole qualification is his honesty of purpose, the work is most reliable and dull” (Sword & Trowel, November 1882).

6. Write, Write, & Write
“Many of our hours of pain and weakness have been lightened by preparing the first volume of our book on the Psalms for the press. If we could not preach we could write, and we pray that this form of service may be accepted of the Lord” (Sword & Trowel, January 1870).

7. Read to Write
“Read good authors, that you may know what English is, you will find it to be a language very rarely written nowadays, and yet the grandest of all human tongues” (Sword & Trowel, August 1871).

Writing a Book

John Piper speaks about his daily schedule when on writing leave and the process of writing a book:

Window into Piper’s Writing from Desiring God on Vimeo.

On Writing

Justin Taylor put the following short article together on the subject of writing. What he wrote resonates with me very much. I believe there are great insights here.

On Writing Well: Four Suggestions

1. Read Slowly.

Joseph Epstein:

Most people ask three questions of what they read:

(1) What is being said?

(2) Does it interest me?

(3) Is it well constructed?

Writers also ask these questions, but two others along with them:

(4) How did the author achieve the effects he has? And

(5) What can I steal, properly camouflaged of course, from the best of what I am reading for my own writing?

This can slow things down a good bit.

2. Read a Lot.

Stephen King:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. . . .

It’s hard for me to believe that people who read very little (or not at all in some cases) should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written, but I know it’s true. If I had a nickel for every person who ever told me he/she wanted to become a writer but didn’t have time to read, I could buy myself a pretty good steak dinner. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

3. Write to Think.

Some people won’t write until they first know what they think about a subject. But good writers write in order to find out what they think. Here are a few examples:

Calvin, citing Augustine: “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”

Ed Welch: “I find that there are three levels of clarity. When I only think about something, my thoughts are embryonic and muddled. When I speak about it, my thoughts become clearer, though not always. When I write about it, I jump to a new level of clarity.”

John Piper: “Writing became the lever of my thinking and the outlet of my feelings. If I didn’t pull the lever, the wheel of thinking did not turn. It jerked and squeaked and halted. But once a pen was in hand, or a keyboard, the fog began to clear and the wheel of thought began to spin with clarity and insight.”

Arthur Krystal: “Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person. In fact, I am smarter when I’m writing. I don’t claim this merely because there is usually no one around to observe the false starts and groan-inducing sentences that make a mockery of my presumed intelligence, but because when the work is going well, I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me. Nor am I the first to have this thought, which, naturally, occurred to me while composing. According to Edgar Allan Poe, writing in Graham’s Magazine, ‘Some Frenchman—possibly Montaigne—says: ‘People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.’ I can’t find these words in my copy of Montaigne, but I agree with the thought, whoever might have formed it. And it’s not because writing helps me to organize my ideas or reveals how I feel about something, but because it actually creates thought or, at least supplies a Petri dish for its genesis.”

4. Write and Rewrite.

“Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” — Raymond Chandler

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, 1985

“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” — Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, 1966

“Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.” — Helen Dunmore

“Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.” — Will Self

How to Write a Theology Essay

Michael P. Jensen’s book “How to Write a Theology Essay” could prove to be a valuable resource for anyone wishing to help people grasp true things about God. Each of the twenty chapters ends with a bullet-point summary (though there is more to the book than the summaries):

1. How not to lose heart before you start

•The topics of theology really matter
•The knowledge of God is not the preserve of the very clever
•Starting to write theology is a challenge that can be fun!

2. What is theology in any case?

•Theology is a species of reason, subject to the Word of God
•Theology is a form of speech
•Theology is evangelical: it is about God and his deeds
•Theology is evangelistic: it is an invitation to submit to the Lordship of Christ

3. What is a theology essay?

•An essay is an invitation to persuade
•The object of the theology essay is to say true things about God
•The theology essay deals with ideas and concepts
•It is not merely a summary of Scripture

4. The responsibility of theology

•Theology is answerable to God and must be done with prayerful reverence
•Theology is best done in service to God and his people
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