From the Desk of the Editor: The Three Most Important Rules for Every Writer to Know

Filed in From the Desk of... by on February 5, 2013 7 Comments

Have you ever held a lump of coal in your hand? It’s rough, nondescript and unappealing. Although it’s hard to imagine, that same lump in your hand could have worked its way from dustiness into the clean, glittering transparency of a diamond – but what would it have taken to transform it?

The Three Most Important Rules for Every Writer to KnowPressure and time.  Lots of pressure, over many years, but there’s no way to skip those two steps. If you want diamonds, you must have pressure and time. As already-published authors or would-be writers, you’re aware of those two elements within the creative process. You’re familiar with how much work it takes to get your thoughts sorted out and onto the page. How do you turn those thoughts into a gripping autobiography, or a must-read sequel to your first book? What will take your writing from good to great?

Here are the three biggest keys to catapult your writing to the next level:

1)  Rewrite. Then rewrite again.

I’ve explained this to writers hundreds of times over the years, so let’s make it one-hundred-and-one: when writing your manuscript, your eyes will often scan through a sentence and see what it is supposed to say instead of what is actually written. That is how we read a page a dozen times and miss a spelling error. Try printing it out and tracing through the sentences with a pencil. Look for mistakes and typos. Reread long sentences slowly and aloud. Will your reader have to read the sentence two or three times to understand its meaning? Make adjustments!

2)  Phone a Friend.

If it’s a story you’ve heard from your mother a hundred times, it can be easy to skip through some of the details when retelling it; however, remember that your reader has never heard the story. Your reader hasn’t already witnessed the scene from your novel that has played in your head for weeks and they haven’t been mulling over the details of that revelation from the Bible during their daily coffee breaks. Are you including enough detail? Ask a friend to read your book and place notes on pages where you should elaborate more on a spiritual idea, on the dialogue between two characters, or where descriptive imagery will make the book feel more alive.

The Three Most Important Rules for Every Writer to Know3)  Employ an Expert.

Most of us would like to believe that we’re smart enough to write well; the truth is that even the best writer needs an editor. Copyright stipulations, tricky punctuation and the maze of grammar guidelines call for deep expertise and most of us simply don’t have the time to memorize all of those rules! Would you memorize the latest income tax code manual, just so you can do your own taxes one time? You certainly could, but you probably have more important things to do with your time. Utilize a professional editing service and let them handle the comma conundrums.

Follow these three easy steps, and you’ll soon find that your writing is starting to glimmer and shine – much like that diamond I mentioned earlier!


About the Author ()

Brittnee Newman, Marketing & Communications Strategist for Xulon Press, has been a blogger, freelance journalist and editor for just over half a decade. She joined Xulon Press as an editor in 2012, and now supports the company within the Marketing Department. Follow her on Twitter at @XulonBrittnee.

Comments (7)

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  1. avatar Josh Baker says:

    Great article Brittnee! There is a wealth of great feedback to be had just by letting a friend or family member read your manuscript. A reader’s perspective is very different than the author’s. You may be surprised to find that parts you thought your readers would fawn over aren’t even commented on. Conversely, your readers will fall in love with a two paragraph afterthought you added on a whim.

    Be sure to ask your test reader the following questions:

    1. How did they like the pacing? Find out if there were any slow parts, abrupt chapters, anti-climactic action sequences, etc.

    2. Were there any sections that were difficult to follow or understand? You might have cleverly plotted that your protagonist stepping off the curb with their left foot on Sunday meant that he was the neighbor’s long lost half-brother – but was your reader able to catch this?

    3. Was the ending gratifying? Were they satisfied with how all periphery plot lines were reconciled?

    4. This is an important one: What, if anything, would you like to see added to the book? Listen carefully to your readers answer! Resist the urge to explain or justify why it isn’t needed.

    Find someone in your circles who is an English major (not the British military gent type) and ask them to proof your manuscript for spelling and grammatical errors. The spell-check on MS Word is not sufficient. Hidden in the depths of your best-seller are misused tenses, punctuation train-wrecks, and reversed character dialogue that your Author-Brain will NEVER catch.

    After your test readers have finished your awesome book, and you have made corrections/ modifications based on their feedback, it will be time to call in the pros. There are numerous professional editorial services and a wide range of prices to match. Some are extremely expensive while other independent proofreaders/editors, like those posting on, are more affordable. You should compare several Editorial Services (Including the Xulon Press offering) to find one that is right for you. This is an important investment – don’t skip it!

    I hope these tips help!

    Best of luck on your writing adventures!

    – Josh Baker
    Author of, “Please Don’t Remove MarGreat’s Glasses!” from Xulon Press.

    • Josh,

      Thank you so much for your feedback! It’s always great to hear from an author in the Xulon family!

      These points were an excellent expansion on this topic. In particular, I love the point raised in #3. Unfortunately, I do sometimes see manuscripts which lay the framework for a fabulous autobiography or a supenseful novel, and there is no conclusion or summary at the end. I certainly understand how it happens; as authors, we’re usually exhausted by the end of the writing process! Getting early feedback from test readers can help writers avoid this problem. After all, if you’re going to take the time to write a book, the ending should be spectacular!

      You’re absolutely correct in identifying the two layers of editing. A writer will save a lot of time and money by handing over their book and a red pen to a very honest friend, and then using a professional to do the final sweep. It really makes a huge difference!

      Thanks again for reading! We look forward to hearing from you again soon.

      Brittnee Newman

  2. avatar Isiah L. Nottage says:

    The information outlined was great and very important to authors. I’m the author of a finished manuscript called ” A QUEST FOR DIVINE KNOWLEDGE”. Hopefully, when it is received and published, christians would be more enlightning about the deep mysteries of God and his kingdom. However , your tips are very well received. Great ideas !

    • Isiah,

      Thank you for reading and providing your feedback, and congratulations on your book! We will be praying that it touches many lives!

      We look forward to hearing from you again soon,
      Brittnee Newman

  3. avatar Evelyn Sorensen says:

    Thanks so much. I have been writing a book for about 10 years now about my transitions as a mom and woman of God. It talks about my experiences in raising our 3 children through their various phases of growth with helpful hints along the way. My daughter is a missionary and both my sons have lives dedicated to the Lord. IT will be a chapter book each containing insight into how I got through all the issues of life in prayer. I think all the information is done and am now retyping everything on my new computer. Friends who have read a few chapters say they can’t wait until it comes out, so I am encouraged. I only have suggestions for a name and will need a great deal of help eventually. I believe the Lord urged me to write it, but I guess I am a little scared, Help!

    • Evelyn,

      Thanks for getting in touch with me! Writers like you are exactly the reason we’re writing the “Ask the Editor” blogs. If you subscribe to the blog (top right corner) we’ll be posting lots of tips and tricks here to make the writing process a little bit easier. It sounds like you’ve probably got some great stories!

      I would suggest breaking your favorite stories & lessons from being a mom into individual chapters. For example, write a chapter about teaching your daughter when she was a toddler that she could grow up to be anything she wanted to be- now she’s a missionary! Title it something fun, like “From Diapers to Destiny.” At the end of the chapter, restate the moral of the story in one sentence: “It’s the love that you give and the faith you impart which gets your children from diapers to destiny.” Write a conclusion chapter for the end of the book, and you’re done!

      And perfect timing, we posted an article about book titles today:

      Happy writing!

      • avatar Donna Joy Dohme says:

        I’ve wanted to write for years, children’s books and recently asked God for direction because it’s all coming together in my mind. The day I said the prayer, “Father give me direction.” The very first thing I saw when I opened my FB page with the ads at the right was Xulon Press, let us help you get your Christian book published…..So I sent for the Free Publishing Guide. It took me about a week and I returned Peter Lopez phone call from your company today and had a good encouraging conversation with him. I kept his message and every time I listened to my messages I heard his “God Bless You” because that’s the way he started his call. It made me smile all week every time I heard his voice. I can’t stop reading EVERYTHING about the company….Ask the Editor, Arthur Inspirations, etc. I’m excited and encouraged and looking forward to the future with your company. Thank you for being there and Thank God for directing me to you. Always, Donna Joy

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