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The Chair of Southern Christian Writers North shore spoke at the first meeting of Southern Christian Writers in the Gospel Bookstore. An international bestselling author who had ventured into independent publishing followed her. Then an author featured on a national news network gave us tips on marketing.

We met monthly January through October and took a break for the holidays. We had as many poets as prose writers, so we launched the poetry fellowship lead by Ingrid, at that time the author of twelve books of poetry. She now has nineteen. We met as one group when we had speakers and met separately for a critique session.

Critique session worked great for me when I attended a secular writer’s group. But it’s not easy to offend me, and I endured a lot of abusive comments to keep the peace. The sessions did not work well for SCW.

Critiques are difficult to handle. The root of the problem is people who do not have enough knowledge about writing to give a helpful critique. There are people who will continue to speak past their allotted time or read more pages then the requested 1 to two, which prevents others from having time. Sometimes comments are cruel, which discourages a writer. I tried to soften the sessions by doing most of the critiquing and had someone else read the writer’s work. But few people submitted work and took part in the discussions. I did not find the sessions helpful.

I had learned much about publishing before starting Southern Christian Writers, but it had been years since I had a manuscript published. If I was going to lead writers, all of them pursuing independent publishing, it was time to publish again.

I choose the manuscript dearest to my heart. To understand me and my writing one must begin with my concept of faith. That concept is the subject of my first book Steps of Faith, which I never tried to sell and is no longer in print.  That book became little more than a learning experience. While browsing through the 200,000-word manuscript I saw information that could be removed without losing anything of value, so I rewrote it. The process took months. In the end, the manuscript had 30,000 words that conveyed its message in short chapters with clearly defined points.

I have met authors who thought they could edit their own manuscript and were proud of the finished product. Reading the first page, sometimes the first sentence taught me writers don’t know what they don’t know. We are so familiar with the subject; we leave out essential information the reader needs to understand what we wrote.  

There is a scientific reason an editor is needed. Most people can read a sentence of jumbled words like this one:

Yuo cna porbalby raed tihs esaliy desptie teh msispeillgns.

As your brain deciphers each word, it also predicts which words logically come next. In addition to predicting what word came next, your brain also filled in any gaps based on the next words. That is one reason catching all the grammar glitches is near impossible without a second set of fresh eyes. Our mind often sees what we expect to see and fills in the blank if it’s not there. Therefore, words like the, and, to, in, etc. are often missing in action.

Unfortunately, hiring an editor is expensive, and it is difficult to find one that complements your talent and personality.  I asked seven friends to read my first manuscript and circle errors. The corrections were made, and it was still full of errors. Next, I asked a friend who writes. Our theology conflicted. She changed what I wrote to agree with her views, creating more work for me when I changed most of her changes.

A friend’s son worked as a ghost writer for a famous evangelist. While researching editors his name came up. He had left the evangelist’s ministry to work independently as an editor. Friends had not worked well. A professional accustomed to editing my genre might work. I hired him. An expensive decision I later regretted.  

Writers have a unique voice. His editing made the manuscript sound like the evangelist he used to work for. Abraham was his favorite character in the Bible, and he took issue with any negative portrayal. By the time we were finished the manuscript still had too many errors to justify what I paid.

I set the project aside until I could release the frustration and decide what to do next.


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