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Writing and Publishing

Don’t Expect an Editor to Do Your Job

As a magazine publisher, I edit every submission I receive. Yes, every single one. (And then a proofreader fixes everything I miss.) Though some submissions are in much better shape than others, each one receives some changes. In fifteen years, I’ve never ever accepted a submission without making at least a few edits.

I may need to shorten a piece to meet space requirements. Or I may need to fix issues with the writing itself, such as using complete sentences, ensuring a consistent tense or perspective, fixing punctuation, and so forth. I may need to remove self-promotion, something that is unprofessional and that we prohibit. Other times I need to correct sections that readers will likely misunderstand. Occasionally, I need to remove something that will offend our audience.

Whatever the reason for the edits, I keep two things in mind: I don’t want to embarrass the writer, and I don’t want to change his or her voice. Most editors have a similar perspective: they have the writer’s best interest in mind.

Given that, some writers may wonder: If it’s going to be edited anyway, why should I submit my best work?

Submitting your best writing results in less work for the editor and earns you their respect. Your future submissions will be anticipated, more likely to be accepted, and may even be published sooner.

Submitting sloppy work has the opposite effect. The editor groans when your email arrives, puts off reading it, and is more likely to reject it. Don’t earn that reputation. This applies to both article and book submissions.

I have several writers who submit content on a regular basis. For some, each piece is well written and professional. For others, I see their quality slide over time, often degrading to a point where I think I’m reading their first draft; they didn’t even bother to proofread it. Maybe they’ve become complacent or perhaps they figure that since it’s going to be edited anyway, why bother?

Don’t be that writer.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Editing is Writing, Too

Since the new year, I’ve written early in the morning, every day, usually for an hour or two. Aside from my blog posts (which I write on the weekends) and work articles (which I write during the day), my total writing output for the year stands at far less than 1,000 words.

What have I been doing? Why don’t I have anything tangible to show for my efforts?

The answer is simple, I’ve been editing. Editing is tedious. Editing requires gumption. Editing demands focus. And editing is required.

I liken the process of producing a book for a home construction project. Writing my first draft is like framing in a wall. Progress is fast; the project takes shape; satisfaction follows with ease.

Doing the final edit is like sanding the final coat of drywall compound to finish a wall. It makes a mess, induces boredom, and necessitates patience. Without the proper attention to detail, I urge this step forward too quickly, which becomes obvious to all in the finished product, be it a painted wall or a printed book. A lack of diligence in this stage results in embarrassment later.

So for six weeks, I’ve been editing my work. First were a couple of miscellaneous projects, then a short story for a contest. Lately, I’ve been editing blog posts from my first blog, “The Musings of Peter DeHaan,” to make into a book, codenamed Woodpecker Wars.

Then, having just received feedback from my editor, on Monday I’ll start another round of edits on my book 52 Churches. Then I’ll do the same for its prequel God, I Don’t Want to Go to Church. After that will be final edits on a revision of my dissertation The Convergent Church. Then I plan to rework it into a more accessible book for normal people, like you and me. And then are two more rewrites lined up for past academic work. And there’s more.

The disheartening reality is that I’ll spend all of 2014 in editing mode. But editing is a critical part of writing, a step we dare not skip.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.


Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Perfect Proofing Practices

It’s hard for most people to proof their own writing. I’m no exception. For my magazines, I hire a proofreader to check my work and the other submissions that will appear in each issue. For my books, I pay a copy editor to catch my errors. For blogs, I rely on my wife and friends to offer correction, albeit only after I post it.

Sometimes my mistakes are significant errors, such as the wrong word spelled correctly or stating something in the negative when I intended the positive. Other errors are not so weighty, but merely embarrassing, such as incorrect word usage, a missing word, or an extra word.

When someone tells me of an error, I quickly correct the offense. Those who read my posts via email miss the corrections, but those who use a reader or bookmark my blog have a good chance of seeing the revised version.

For a while, every post seemed to contain errors. Then I tried reading my work aloud before I published my post. This greatly reduced my mistakes but not all of them. More recently, I’ve been using text-to-speech software (TextAloud), where Crystal and Mike take turns reading my work to me. Hearing my words through someone else’s voice helps me catch most of the errors I make.

I hope it worked this time.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Should You Write for Speed or Quality?

I often hear authors and instructors encourage writers to write quickly. They say things such as:

  • Just get your thoughts down.
  • Produce a crappy first draft.
  • Write first; edit later.
  • Let your words spew forth without evaluation.
  • Don’t do any editing until you finish your rough draft.

Their goal is speed

Given the number of people advocating such things, it seems this is how everyone should write. I comprehend the logic of this approach, but it doesn’t work for me—and it may not be right for you, either.

When I write, I write carefully. I compose a sentence, a paragraph, or more as the words flow. Then I pause. I take a pensive breath and write the next section with intention, repeating this process until I am done.

Then I read and fine-tune the completed piece. When the words are as I want them to be, I spell-check and then proofread using text-to-speech software. I do a final spellcheck, and I am done. This editing, tweaking, and proofing phase doesn’t usually take too much time.

My goal is quality—on the first pass

It may take me a bit longer to write, but there’s a lot less editing on the back end. I like that.

People who write quickly produce a rough draft; people who write carefully produce the first drafts. Rough drafts require a lot of editing; first drafts usually need much less.

I prefer to invest more time writing in order for editing to go faster. Overall, this quality first approach takes me less time.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Five Types of Critiques

I’m part of multiple critique groups (yeah, they’re that important) and receive all manner of feedback, from good to bad, helpful to hurtful. They fall into five general categories:

1) Unhelpful: Let’s start with this one and get it out of the way. Some critique partners don’t provide useful information. The reasons are numerous, but it includes people who don’t know how to give a critique, people who aren’t qualified (such as someone who only reads nonfiction, attempting to critique fiction), people who try to make their writing look better by criticizing others, and people who simply like to talk. We must discern and then dismiss this type of feedback.

2) Encouraging: Some readers gush with praise. They may not know what else to say, not want to criticize, or hope if they’re nice to you, you’ll reciprocate with them. We all need encouragement, but a steady diet of accolades will skew our self-perception.

3) The Big Picture: Some people look at overall structure; they address confusing passages, awkward flow, and unneeded passages. They may also suggest you reorder your piece, delete sections, or insert new content. Following their advice is time-consuming, but each suggestion warrants careful consideration.

4) Line Edits: Some folks are detail people. They provide copious comments on punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, and so forth. Their feedback is tedious to process. It is also most valuable, assuming they know what they’re talking about.

5) Less is More: These critique partners challenge you with one major item to address. Their words are concise and profound. One trusted reviewer simply smiled at me and said, “I want to see you bleed.” I immediately knew I needed to pour more of myself into my piece and not play it safe.

When we share our work, we’ll receive all five types of feedback. Knowing how to receive and respond to each one is critical to improving our writing.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of PublishingGet your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.