Fairly often I am asked about writing for publication.

“How do I become a better writer?”

“How do I decide which periodical to submit my article to?”

“How do I approach an editor?”

“What should a book proposal include?”

I myself am very new to writing and publishing, so I have no idea why these questions come my way. Nevertheless, I will hazard a few words of advice for would-be writers.

First, take one (or more than one) of Denise George’s Book Writing Boot Camps. I first met Denise at Beeson Divinity School, where she teaches a class called The Writing Minister. The class was excellent; Denise is an aficionado of the writing craft. If you have questions, Denise will have the answers.

Second, read great writers. Start with someone like C.S. Lewis. Read his complete corpus. Watch what he does. Appreciate his every move. Learn the value of a good metaphor. If you want to become a better writer, become a better reader.

Third, keep a commonplace book. Write down every new word you learn. Every phrase you find that makes you smile and say, “Now that’s a great line.” Every quote worth remembering. Then tweak this stuff and work it into your own writing. “Borrow from the best,” I always say.

Fourth, read books on writing and publishing. I know, this is not exactly an action-packed genre. No serial killers. Only discussion about the serial comma. Very few damsels in distress. Lots of warnings about dangling modifiers. But hey, we do need to know the nuts and bolts. Here is a list of seven helpful works to get you started.

Strunk and White, The Elements of Style

Zinsser, On Writing Well

Clark, The Glamour of Grammar

Clark, Writing Tools

Wilson, Wordsmithy

Porter, Inking the Deal

Rabiner and Fortunato, Thinking Like Your Editor

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