Five Lessons I’ve Learned in Five Years as an Editor

“Do you have any tips to share about being an editor? Any books to read or things you wish you knew when you started?”

A friend and fellow writer recently sent me these questions. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked about how someone can develop an editorial eye and make strides in this elusive, but important skill-set. I figure some of you might have similar questions, so here’s my attempt at an answer!

Let me preface by saying two things:

I didn’t study writing or English in college. What you’ll find in this article, then, isn’t lessons from a classroom, but those learned through work-related experience and diving in headfirst. I don’t pretend to have a refined knowledge of all-things-grammar and technical aspects of writing, nor do I have all the answers! These are simply reflections.

I’m writing this also for writers. Good writers are skilled self-editors, and good writers keep their editors in mind as they write. It’s a beautiful gift when a writer submits an article to Unlocking the Bible, and it’s mostly done. Growth in the skill of self-editing will greatly bless the editor who receives your submission!

Without further ado:

Lesson #1: Editing isn’t taught, it’s caught.

I can’t take credit for this brilliant statement. My co-worker and editor extraordinaire, Tim Augustyn, first said it. I was training my first co-editor and asked Tim for advice. He said, “Editing isn’t taught––it’s caught.”

By this, I don’t think Tim meant there’s no possibility of learning the editorial skill-set through books or courses; rather, we learn best by watching, analyzing, and doing. Just as an apprentice would learn by studying his master as he worked, so we learn editing in a similar way:

  • When we’re reading great books, we observe and analyze voicing, word choice, argument-flow, and the rhythm of sentences.  
  • When we’re being edited, we study what our editor is doing and learn from their suggestions and decisions, and even by the way they communicate.
  • When a writer reasonably pushes back on our work, we’re learning how to become better editors.

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A Journaling Template for Your New Year’s Resolutions

How will you be intentional about the next 365 days?

As we’ve closed another year and started a fresh one, there’s much to thank God for, to process, and also to pray over and anticipate.

Over the past few years, I’ve found a concise and clear way to journal these thoughts and prayers. And I hope it might be useful to you!

So grab your Bible, along with a pen and notebook, and find some time to be alone with the Lord, seeking his will and wisdom for the coming year.

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The 10 Most Popular Articles of 2017

With all the web-noise and digital content published every second of every day, it’s hard to choose how and where to spend our time online. So, for those of you who’ve chosen to spend time here throughout 2017, thank you!

My desire is to be faithful to God and to his Word. One of my writing goals for 2018 has less to do with writing and more to do with praying—particularly for the readers who come across this website and stick around to read.

For you.

So please know I’m praying for you, dear reader: for God to strengthen you and sanctify you in his truth, and for you to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

That said

These were your favorite articles from this year. Enjoy!

1. Three Takeaways from TGC17

2. Confessions of an Insecure Writer (Part 1)

3. What Should I Do When I’m Struggling to Read God’s Word?

4. An Open Letter to Myself: On Motherhood, Writing, and Identity in Christ

5. 20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

6. 22 Prayers for Your Bible Reading

7. 10 Bible Verses to Strengthen You As You Wait

8. Why I Read Christian Books All Wrong

9. 2017 Reading Favorites

10. When Satan Demands to Have You

May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you in his peace as you enter 2018!

A Question About Christian Satire

Love is patient and kind.

Our God commands us to love him first and foremost, and to love our neighbor as ourselves—but are we doing this online? Especially when we disagree with our neighbor?

I’ve been saddened by the lack of love strewn throughout Christian circles on the web in recent years. Lately, someone brought a satirical article to my attention that called out by name a person with whom the author disagreed, poking fun at them and attempting to make them a laughingstock to the reader.

My heart broke.

Is satire funny and helpful when it deals with ideas? Yes. But this was about a person. Someone created in the image of God. Someone who genuinely believes they’re following Christ.

Loving Our Neighbor

Doesn’t our great God call us to more than this? Doesn’t he command us to love others because he first loved us—even when we sorely disagree with them?

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Home Row Episode 25: On Broadway, Providence, Suffering, and Writing

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of talking with Jeff Medders, host of the podcast Home Row: A Podcast with Writers on Writing. He started the podcast over a year ago, and it’s one of my favorites!

Writers, if you’re looking for a helpful resource on the discipline and craft of writing, you’ll want to subscribe to Home Row.

Jeff and I talk baby names, swimming, editing, Hope When It Hurts, and more. Here’s the episode…click to listen!

Confessions of an Insecure Writer, Part 2

A war continues to wage within this writing sinner’s heart.

My first three confessions covered identity, comparison, and motives in writing. Here are the final four:

Confession #4: I often don’t (think I) know what I’m doing.

There. I said it. Someone’s going to find me out because I’m not sure I know what I’m doing. By this, I don’t mean I know nothing about how to write. I know something about this. Otherwise I wouldn’t have scored well on research papers in college or be writing anything remotely helpful today…

What I mean is: I’m young and inexperienced and don’t have a turnkey process for writing. I compare myself to other writers (there it is again), and I see the sin in my heart, my mixed motives. All this makes me feel unqualified, undeserving, and, most of the time, incapable.

But this is a good place to be.

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Confessions of an Insecure Writer (Part 1)

A war is waging within this writing sinner’s heart.

We’ll call this war “The Battle of the Insecure Writer.” It’s an (almost) everyday battle, a consistent fight. This is an attempt to describe that war, in hopes that I’ll better grasp its ins-and-outs and fight sin and temptation by the strength God supplies.

I’m also hoping this will help you, fellow writer. You, too, are fighting an inner war against sin, pride, and other fruit of the flesh. The ins-and-outs of your battle may look different than mine, but I’d guess much is similar. I’m hoping this will help you identify sin and temptation, and rest in God’s infinite grace as you pursue writing as a gift, a vocation, a calling.

So here-goes my first three confessions (and there are more to follow)—

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