The Craft of Writing
If you are a writer who wants to hone your craft…
Remember something you read that was beautifully written? The grammar, the syntax, the vocabulary – all flawless; the storyline flowed easily for the eye and the brain. Whether you read this gem in ink or pixel, the passage is the message and the enjoyment is in the beauty of it’s crafting as well as it’s content. Why is this wonderful experience so rare? Is it fair to claim that the quality of writing has withered? Buy a half dozen self published ebooks and then we’ll talk.
These past few years, as quality standards crumble and “Um” is being added to dictionaries, I have had the pleasure to know and work with Mervin Block, The Mervin Block, (www.mervinblock.com) the man who developed the Mervin Block method of newswriting. He developed this system while writing news copy for Cronkite, Wallace, Brinkley, Kuralt, and any national news anchor you may have watched in the past fifty years. He is well schooled (Medill) and constantly strives for the best. He taught for 30 years at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and he has a resume too big to post here.
The rare coin investment expert Scott A. Travers recommended Merv to me and I’ve represented his work these past few years. Now I love Merv. He is a remarkable man and excellent company, one of the most enjoyable people you could meet. He has good taste, a good nature, and a good wit. But most of all he loves good writing and knows as much about it as anyone alive. He is a highly sought after writing coach, and still does television writing workshops for broadcast journalists. And he knows the Merv Block style inside and out. He should be core curriculum!
The text he wrote for journalism students and industry professionals is called Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger. This book is a joy and offers something to every writer, not just broadcast journalists. Check it out on google books – you can read almost the whole thing. (Fair Use apparently means Google can do what they want.) Regardless where you read it, the lessons in the book are practical, the insights into style are brilliant, and the whole package is delivered with witty good nature.
Merv could retire and look down upon ABC TV from his apartment high above, but Merv still has work to do. He gets more and more work each day. Piles of it, delivered like manure to a gardener. But it’s not Merv’s job to spread it around, it’s his job to make it stink less. You see, Merv Block gets transcripts of newscasts by today’s network news anchors and critiques the errors and mistakes they broadcast nightly. Bending the truth a bit? Embellishing for impact? Not enough keywords in that intro?
Merv’s new book, Weighing Anchors: When Network Newscasters Don’t Know Write From Wrong points out the foibles and built-in-errors in the newscasts that go to the 25 million Americans who actually watch the evening newscasts. It is amazing that we have become inured to the errors that permeate the delivery of the news. And as we accept those errors they creep into the culture as a whole. Merv disects the language with the same wit and clarity as in his earlier books.
If you are a writer who wants to hone your craft, check out Writing Broadcast News: Shorter, Sharper, Stronger and Weighing Anchors.