The Importance of a Good Editor (In writing and in life)

July 28, 2011

I’m currently working on my fourth book, a look at the unique struggles of those who grow up in the church. It’s the most difficult book I’ve written and probably the most ambitious. I have learned over the course of writing three books and numerous articles the importance of having a good editor. I’m not talking about the editor at the publisher, who is also very, very good. I’m talking about someone willing to look at your chapters when they are 80% done but you don’t know how to put them over the top. I’m talking about someone willing to go through your pride and joy and highlight areas that need to change and areas that are good. This is what makes your work good, if not great.

How do you find a good editor? Well, there are a few ways. You could hire a professional editor. There are many in the Christian publishing industry who charge to give a professional review of your work. Some very busy writers I know, who produce a ton of books, consider this a worthy expense. I’ve done this at times with projects, especially those that have a tight deadline.

You might also find someone willing to simply read through your stuff. I’ve been fortunate to have a professional writer/editor that I know who lives in this area and happens to attend our church. She’s an emerging writer, but for years spent time doing technical writing, so she has an especially critical eye. I’ve had her review my last two books and she’s doing the same with my current project. I have come to appreciate her keen insight. I’ve also enlisted two other people, one a pastor with a keen insight for theology (to make sure I don’t go off the rails) and another guy who is in the target demographic for my audience. Each has brought something different and is helping me polish this manuscript.

We need editors because we want to polish our work. It may be true that God has given us a unique gift, but it’s also true that we are human, we are fallen creatures, and we are not always right, even in our area of giftedness.This is not simply true in writing. It’s true in life. Sometimes I run across people who refuse to accept instruction or bend or be flexible because they have experience and talent in that area. The experienced businessman who insists that his way of doing business is the only right way. The seminary student who refuses to listen to other theological perspectives. The teacher who looks down on anyone who doesn’t have a degree.

In life we need editors. We need friends willing to help us polish our gifts. This may come from a mentor. This may come from a spouse. This may come from that cranky person whose advice you write off. Don’t make this mistake. God is sending these people to make you even more effective at what He has called you to do. It’s also a way of humbling you to make you realize that you’re not God, you’re not all-knowing, and others may have insight you don’t have.

Bottom line: Embrace, don’t alienate, the editors of your life.