It Takes a Village to Write
If I am serious about my writing, I want it to be the best it can be. That happens when I enlist the help and talents of others. Many books have a page of acknowledgements recognizing those who have had a part in the final published work. It’s a village of people. Here are some of those in my writing village:
Accountability Group: I started writing when my father invited me to join the family writing group. Each of us in the group of 5 was beginning to write a book. My sisters and father were writing novels, I was writing a book for my son’s high school graduation. Each Friday we sent an email to the group with an update of any progress we made that week. If we had any writing to share, we attached it to the email. Others would read our work and provide critical feedback to make it better. We were accountable to each other throughout the entire writing process. An accountability group helps you keep moving forward, and sometimes we need a deadline to make progress.
Research Group: In my second published book, Times of Grace, I wrote about 17 different seasons in the spiritual life. I knew as I began the book that I needed to test the ideas I planned to share. Did I cover all the common seasons? Were distinctions between the seasons clear? How did other people experience these seasons? So I reached out to people I knew at church and asked if they would be willing to share some of the spiritual journey with me in a small group setting. I scheduled a series of meetings: one for men, two dinner meetings for couples, and one weekend retreat for women. Many of those who attended the research meetings became beta readers later on.
Beta Readers: We all need another set of eyes to read our work. In Times of Grace, I had several people from the research group who graciously offered to read chapters as I finished them. My accountability group also read each chapter along the way. Their feedback helped improve the structure of the chapters by making comments and suggestions like, The chapter ends too abruptly. This season is too negative. I don’t see a difference between these two seasons. It’s important to enlist people who are willing to tell you what needs to be fixed, not just lift you up (that’s good, too).
Theological Readers: Because my writing is spiritual in nature, I have two people I rely on to read the book from a theological standpoint. I’m not looking for an imprimatur, but I do want to be sure I am not misstating a teaching of the Church. One of my future books is about addiction and sin and I will enlist the help of a priest to think through the nature of sin when a person or someone they love struggles with addiction.
Proofreaders: When the book was finished, I asked 4 people with an eye for details to read and identify any mistakes. They found a lot! Three of the proofreaders had been part of the Research Group or Beta Readers. One had not seen the book before. This is an important group because by this time you have read your book so many times you often can’t see any problems. You may not realize that you repeated a story in two different chapters or used the same Scripture passage three different times.
Final proofreader: After the first round of proofreading, I made edits, but I was not certain that I was finished. What if, when I made an edit, I introduced another typo? (It happens.) I had a final proof copy printed and asked my friend June to do the final proof. She is an excellent proofreader/editor and had not seen any part of the book yet. She was reading with fresh eyes. I wasn’t looking for any structural feedback at this point. Her focus was to read for grammar and punctuation.
Communion of Saints: Anyone who writes for the Kingdom of God has another villager available in the Communion of Saints. When we write, we begin by offering our work and our time to God, we pray through our writing, and we pray in thanksgiving when we finish. We can also choose a saint related to our content and ask for their intercession as we work. There are patron saints for everything, so surely there is one for your book. Make it a habit to enlist the help of the Church Triumphant as you write. And remember the Church Militant. Don’t be afraid to ask your brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for you and for the work you are doing.
That is my writing village for the writing process. (There are others for the publishing process.) I am grateful for each one – for the ideas, the feedback, the encouragement, the criticism, their time, and the prayers they offer up for me. I encourage you to share your writing journey with those you know. Create your village. Your brothers and sisters are waiting to support you in the great adventure of writing for the King.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/person-writing-on-brown-wooden-table-near-white-ceramic-mug-s9CC2SKySJM
About the Author
Colleen Orchanian is an author, spiritual director, podcaster, and retreat leader. She is retired as Adult Formation Director and Director of Religious Education. She lives in Blairsville, Georgia with her husband, Tom, and son, Tommy. You can visit her site at colleenorchanian.com
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