23 June 2010

Editing

On Monday the NY Times ran a nice piece on the archives of John Updike. I was eager to read the piece, thinking it would provide an insight into how Updike edited his material. Although the author did reveal a bit, he was not nearly expansive enough - for my tastes at least.

Editing seems to be a lost art. I find at least two grammatical errors in the Times each day - this is saying something from a writer who averages three errors a paragraph. Contextual note: i have yet to find any error in the Times Picayune, they have excellent copy editors. I would love to have a personal editor for my sermons. (I have a personal goal that I know I have made it as a pastor when three things happen: there are enough men in the congregation to field a winning softball team, I have the summers off, and have a personal secretary). On good weeks the sermon process goes likes this: last sentence written first (I once heard Robert Caro on Charlie Rose say he could not write his biographies of LBJ until he had written the last sentence. I tried it and man is that an excellent practice), outline, first draft (freehand), reading of first draft, second draft (typed and preached), final copy, and copies printed for worship (about 12 people read along during the sermon). I have a colleague who goes into the sanctuary early Saturday morning and preaches his sermon to finalize his sentence rhythm; I like the idea but no way I am going to give up my Saturday morning...yet. But that it is a perfect week. Most weeks that does not happen. When it does not happen I feel underwhelmed by my delivery and final product.

I look back on former years and think how many times delivered first draft sermons to congregations. And folk wonder why churches are not growing! I honestly believe there will be a revitalization in classical Protestantism but it will only come by way of well written, and yes edited, sermons.

Updike article.

4 comments:

Carol said...

thank you for the shout-out to copy editors everywhere -- and here!

hawk said...

My mom, an editor, taught me to write like I speak. Her advice to me has been helpful, especially now that I speak what I write. My process is not dissimilar to yours, though I do a Sunday morning (6:00 am) warm-up. I think of the early morning run through as stretching, although I've rewritten the entire sermon in the pulpit before the 7:30 service. I do believe that most of us that preach could be charged with preaching malpractice, and I am rarely satisfied with my work.

g. travis norvell said...

Hawk, I find the more I edit the more confident I am with the finished product. But to edit more I have to start writing earlier. But sometimes the only warm-up/editing I have comes on Sunday morning. But that is the life of a pastor such as us. One day when i have a personal assistant, summers off, and a couple of associates then the work load can be spread in a healthy manner. perhaps then i can produce sermons that are publishable...

Carl said...

Ideally I try to speak my sermon aloud at least once as practice in order to help make the sermon more "oral language" and less "written language" as well as to help me memorize the sermon more so as to be less dependent on looking down at my manuscript.