Friday, November 16, 2007

On Writing

During these days of dissertation writing, essay composition, and other projects of various kinds, writing is on my mind--and I feel it in my fingers, too. I'm also reminded of some advice I once received from one of my former philosophy professors: "good writing is re-writing."

Writing readable prose comes from reading good writers, and I've read enough dense, academic stuff to know that writing clearly and in an engaging way takes a lot of work. To this end, John Fea has an interesting post over at the Religion in American History blog on who the best writers are in American religious history. Cast your vote.

On a side note, any good books to suggest on the craft of writing itself? I understand Stephen King has a book out on writing, which sounds like an interesting read.

[Photo credit here.]


John Fea said...

This might be a bit obvious, but the best book on writing--one that all writers should have on their shelf and consult regularly--is E.B. White, *Elements of Style*. I also really like Christopher Lasch's *Plain Style*.

Phil said...

Thanks, John. Know of White, as you suggest, but I was not aware of the Lasch volume. I'll check it out for sure.

Edward Carson said...

I think you are probably above and beyond this book at this point, but "How To Complete And Survive A Doctoral Dissertation" has some good stuff. I am with Fea, I keep White's Elements of Style on my desk when doing serious writing.

DEG said...

James B. Stewart's Follow the Story is good. There's also Julie Checkoway's Creating Fiction, which I've found particularly helpful for writing non-fiction. Excellent suggestions in it about clarity, voice, stage-setting, and narrative - basically the things that some historians do better than others. McCloskey's Economical Writing appeals to the Presbyterian in me.

Also, I saw the pics of your with-hair days. Magnificent, but I think I prefer your shorn visage.

Phil said...

Haven't seen the books you recommend but I'll track them down soon. The Checkoway volume sounds particularly inviting.

Yes, I embraced the "shorn visage" about a decade ago now and have never looked back--except for funny pictures like the one you saw. My students got a real kick out of it.