So You Want to Be a Writer?

Photo by John O'Nolan via Creative Commons

Photo by John O’Nolan via Creative Commons

The dreaded rewrite has always struck me as one of those dirty little secrets no one tells you about when you begin a career.

Take for instance the kids who dream of working at the zoo. They romanticize about working with animals, but nobody tells them how often they’ll need to sidestep manure (or the size of elephant dung).

Every job has an unglamorous side. Fire fighters battle fires, and celebrities contend with the paparazzi. And writers fear the rewrite.

I don’t know a writer who doesn’t cringe at the thought of reworking a chapter. If you think editors relish asking for a rewrite, think again.

No editor wants to break out that red pen a second (or tenth) time.

As a writer myself, let me go on record saying I hate rewriting. It stinks compared to the thrill of the first draft—the euphoria of plotting a story or giving birth to an idea to the page.

We all adore the beginning stage of a writing project. I like to call this “the Disney phase” because it reminds me of Disneyland—effervescent happiness tied together with iridescent rainbows.

But rewriting, on the other hand, reminds me of building Disneyland—not vacationing there. It feels like we’ve joined a sweaty construction crew and been asked to drive dozers through the dirt and hoist steel beams into place.

Not to mention working with an editor can resemble communicating a thousand details over walkie talkies.

But if we embrace the editing process, we’ll see a theme park slowly rise out of the dust. Like building a park full of rollercoasters, rewriting requires time, patience, and work.

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Rewriting distinguishes the good writers from the great writers.

I’ve never met a manuscript that didn’t need tweaking. Even Pulitzer Prize winners need editors.

But what do we do when rewriting means starting from scratch? When (not if) this happens, take five minutes for a little trash-can basketball. Then restart.

So stop fearing the rewrite—instead, embrace it.   Tell yourself the truth—it needs the strength and clarity that come through rewriting.

Don’t quit when your editor mouths the fearful word, rewrite. Instead get to work. Drag in some better verbs. Take the wrecking ball to awkward sentence structure. Level flailing chapters and build a stronger story.

 

**Author’s Note: This post first appeared on Authenticity Book House’s blog. Read the blog, here.

What Tom And Jerry Teaches us About Preaching the Gospel

Tom and Jerry

The Tom and Jerry cartoons always bored me. Why would anyone want to watch Tom chase Jerry for more than one episode?

Despite, Tom’s near catches, Jerry almost always outwits Tom. The same story told over and over again gets old.

Or does it? I never grasped Tom and Jerry’s power to hypnotize until my two-year old dragged me onto the sofa with him to watch. That day I understood why the cat-and-mouse franchise just celebrated its 75th birthday.

Right there on the sofa Tom and Jerry taught me three principles we as Christians need to embrace as we preach “Christ and him crucified,” (1 Cor. 1:23).

  • Children don’t watch the show to hear a new story. They watch see the old story told in a new and interesting way.

Tom and Jerry’s producers know how to reinvent the classic cartoon without losing its essence. Through updated music and modern animation, its creators keep the story relevant.

Churches must do the same. Creativity doesn’t change our message—it only enhances it. We need to tell the Christ story in a different way.

Books chock full of religious jargon, or “Christian-ese,” fill libraries. We need to find fresh words and replace stale analogies. When we talk to our friends about Christ, we need metaphors that relate to culture.

  • My kids watch to see the simple story unfold into new layers.

They find comfort in knowing how the basic story doesn’t change.

And isn’t this true of the gospel? We could live for 500 years and never plumb its depths or appreciate its beauty.

The gospel’s never-ending work in us keeps peeling callouses from our hearts and challenging us to new levels of love and grace.

Tom and Jerry1

  • The story itself matters.

No one tunes in to see if Tom will actually catch Jerry (although he does a few times). Creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera understood this.

Likewise, Christians need to stand on the conviction the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus matter. But for an example of an old story told afresh, we can look no further than the Cartoon Network.

That day on the sofa I saw Tom dance the flamenco across the screen, in step with a castanet-clad kitty.

My five-year old’s eyes widened, probably anticipating the banana Jerry flings onto the platform.

I don’t remember the rest of the episode. I was too busy watching my son’s belly jiggle in laughter while I savored their wild guffaws, their eyes transfixed on the TV.

**Author Note: This story first appeared on Authenticity Book House’s website.