As someone who reads quite a lot, and writes quite a lot too, I’m simultaneously in awe of those who write well, and always searching for simple ways to improve my writing. A key thing, I think, is reading well, and I loved Karen Swallow Prior’s book of the same name. The book I’m reviewing today, though, was one I’ve been meaning to read for a few months, and am now very glad I did. My context/need for this book is quite broad – professionally I’m an editor, but I also write marketing content. Outside of work I write blog posts, book reviews and articles, and am working on a couple of books/book chapters. Writing is something I do pretty much every day – and whether I’m looking to improve my own or help other people, it is something I care about.
Andrew T. Le Peau is, as the subtitle suggests, ‘a lifelong editor’. He’s also a good writer, in my entirely subjective opinion. Thankfully, Write Better was a joy to read – with short punchy chapters that actually delivered. The book is divided into three parts – the craft, art and spirituality of writing – and the first two parts would work well for any writer looking to improve their craft. This is a Christian book- with the final third really singing – but it is not the kind of book that is impenetrable or practically useless to those who don’t call themselves Christians. Andrew threads a variety of needles throughout the book: between showing us how to write better, and telling us; between the subjective and objective rules and realities of writing, and between writing authentically and writing in a way that will generate an audience. His section on being persuasive is very good, in my view.
I turned a lot of corners and made a lot of scribbles – this is a book that will sit on my desk, I think, for a while – but this is not just a book for editors. This is definitely a book for writers. I wonder if I could persuade every author who submits a proposal to IVP to read this book first, to think not just about how to write, but also the finished product: title, market, audience, length and style. As Andrew observes, there are hundreds of thousands of writers who are paid to write in various ways – but a very small number of people can sustain a living based solely on writing what they love. That is where the strength of his observations on spirituality come in. He has extraordinarily helpful things to say about vocation, but also about humility and other virtues/fruit of the Spirit.
This is a very good book. I was expecting it to be quite American – but it isn’t, really, beyond the obligatory spelling disagreements. Write Better is a readable, practical and rich book for anyone who writes – and will be particularly valuable to Christians looking to improve their writing, or get published. It’s value is increased by some very helpful appendices, about some key aspects of the contemporary publishing process. If this review has piqued your interest, you’ll probably enjoy reading this book!