When You're Really Done Editing

There were at least five occasions when I declared to friends and family that I was officially "done" with my book Coffeehouse Theology and the two respective study guides. On the first occasion, I had just finished my first drafts and sent them off to my development editor in the fall. I knew that a few chapters were weaker than others, but my overall scope, research, and plan was fairly sound.

I had no idea what was about to hit me.

Having rarely ever used the review feature of Microsoft Word, my editor gave me a quick and shocking introduction to the notes and corrections pervasive in my drafts. While my writing was OK and most of the material was fine, I was too academic in tone, many of my chapters lacked a sound structure, one chapter needed to be divided in two, and another chapter needed to be deleted altogether.

Following the lengthy comments made by my editor, I began to drastically revise each chapter.  I generally followed the following procedure in making edits:

  1. Print out the draft marked up by my editor.
  2. Review this draft during lunch breaks and make notes and suggested changes.
  3. Start with a blank computer screen and the print out with my notes.
  4. Rewrite the chapter from scratch, copying and pasting from the older draft when possible.

This was not a hard and fast rule, but it generally worked. I reorganized the chapters, inserted more stories, cut down on the technical information, and worked on connecting with my ideal audience–a friend I knew back in Pennsylvania. Cutting apart your work and revamping it can be tough work, requiring a certain disconnect from your writing. Nothing is sacred. Everything is on the table. I quickly found that I could not effectively edit until I learned how to delete.