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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Advice for Christian Writers

Advice for Christian Writers

When people learn I’m an editor at Christianity Today, they often feel compelled to fess up to their writing prowess—or lack thereof. Over the years, I’ve connected with plenty of fellow journalists, essayists, and authors. And I’ve chatted with aspiring writers who want to see their words make it out of their journals, Word docs, or ideas in their heads.
It’s hard to know exactly what to say when writers ask about getting published. There is no one, easy path to success as a writer, no surefire way to appeal to editors and land a big audience for your stories. I know how things work at CT, but writing for a Christian magazine is a lot different from another site, a devotional, an academic journal, or a publishing house.
One of our CT Book Award recipients this year offers expert advice on the “craft, art, and spirituality” of writing across genres, so I thought I would share our review with you. In Write Better—a book by longtime InterVarsity Press editor Andy Le Peau, he offers these lines about faithfulness as writers:
How do you find out if writing is your call? Write. Then write some more. Then write a lot more. Try fiction. Try nonfiction. Experiment with different styles. Get suggestions for improvement from qualified people. Revise. See how you like it. See how others like it. And if those things check out, keep going. That might be a call. And if not, no problem. Just keep listening, and maybe keep writing anyway.
Meadow Rue Merrill discusses Le Peau’s call for balance. He asks writers to resist the urge to overwrite and be willing to break the “rules” of writing. Indeed, I’ve found that plenty of people think that good writers are the ones who know where the commas go, have a vocabulary like a thesaurus, and flourish their writing with all sorts of details. I’ve also found that what it takes to be good writer—first and foremost—is to be a good critical thinker.
The best writers ask good questions. They come up with insightful ways to approach and explore their ideas. And they are willing to learn as they write. In Le Peau’s words, “For many writers, myself included, tapping out letters on a keyboard or scratching them with a pen on paper is how we discover what want to say. The best writing is a process of discovery. Or, as the poet Robert Frost supposedly once said, ‘No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.’” (For one favorite example of exceptional thinking and writing from this year, do not miss Rebecca McLaughlin’s Confronting Christianity. It was named CT’s Book of the Year, and you can read an excerpt here.)
It has been a joy to learn about this craft over the years as a writer and editor. As we plan out the coming issues of the magazine, I’m excited about the ambitious and creative stories coming your way in 2020. Stay tuned!

Kate ShellnuttKate Shellnutt
Kate Shellnutt
Editor, CT Women

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