Reviewing a book entitled Write Better A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality admittedly feels like a strangely overwhelming and incongruent task. If a young and unpublished writer has any business dealing with a lifelong editor’s wisdom it should be in having their book review my writing rather than letting my writing review their book! And yet I write anyway — and in this seeming paradox lies the heart of Andrew T. Le Peau’s work: for all its hard, slow, long work, writing is worth it, so here’s how to do it better.
As a writer, teacher, speaker, theologian, and editor with over three decades of experience Le Peau brings a rich and nuanced collection of tools to the table. This slather of experience works itself into the books three sections: (1) the craft of writing, (2) the art of writing, and (3) the spirituality of writing. The first focuses primarily on the nuts and bolts of getting words on paper: fitting structure, persuasion, drama, and creative and concrete practices for breaking the bonds of writer’s block. All this and rewriting… and rewriting, and oh, some more rewriting.
The second delves into the slightly more messy art of writing, covering rules to know and (at times) to break, guidelines for metaphor and when less is more. This section moves the reader towards a sense that writing is more than imbibing rules. It needs a person behind it, a person grounded in Christ. And thus we arrive at the last section, where writing is set forth as both spiritual gift and spiritual discipline. Here the various threads that have permeated Le Peau’s work pull together. All throughout the reader senses that writing is not a mere neutral task; it necessarily involves spiritual and moral realities. Whether it’s the ethics of plagiarism, of representing your material with truthfulness and integrity, or the reality of being an authority and being under an authority in writing, writing is a moral and a spiritual practice. And thus, it is not one to be taken lightly. And yet, for all Le Peau’s sobriety one comes away from Write Better longing to do just that, to write better. The book’s tone remains consistent: for all the possible pitfalls, writing is worthwhile and necessary. It is good.
The appendixes on creating a platform, working with editors and publishers, self- publishing, and copyright are worth the whole book for their insight into what, at least for an outsider, is a terrifying and mysterious world. And yet the choice to place them as appendixes is particularly helpful, for it appears to say, “You can’t worry about these things, till you get the most important parts right.” As such this book is a supremely useful addition to the bookshelf of anyone desiring to get those ‘most important parts’ right: the craft, art, and spirituality of writing.
I thank InterVarsity Press for providing me with an advance copy.