When Do I Stop Editing?
By Katy Kauffman
He didn’t just stop the opposing player—he bulldozed him all the way to the fence.
In the movie “The Blind Side,” Michael Oher used his gigantic size and his equally huge passion to protect his football team. His team was “his family,” as his new foster mom, Leigh Anne Tuohy, told him. Because he was normally passive, Michael had to tap into his protective instincts to become an incredible football player. In one scene, he blocked an opposing player and pushed him all the way past the goal line to the fence and dumped him on the other side.
As writers, we want to fiercely protect our “team” of words, so they can make a difference in readers’ lives. We want to steamroll any “opposing players” in our writing, so they don’t hinder readers from grasping our message and living it out. Opposing players include limp wording, excessive modifiers, distracting details in a story, and a jumbled flow of thought. We want to edit our way to victory, but when we do stop? At the fence line or before?
Just as there’s a time limit in a football game, deadlines limit how much we can edit. I’m learning I need to work on something way ahead of its deadline, so I feel confident enough to submit it. Glancing through The Chicago Manual of Style to make sure we have steamrolled everything bad out of our writing isn’t feasible, so how about an editing checklist—or playbook—to help you with your submissions?
Like me, you probably feel like you could edit a piece of your writing forever. Even when the piece has been published, we can still find elements to change. Use the checklist below to know when to stop editing your Scripture-related books, articles, and blog posts. Then submit and publish with confidence.
A Checklist for Editing Scripture-Related Writing:
- Have I developed a main point that is unique, engaging, and beneficial to my target audience?
- Have I created an irresistible title that will hook readers’ attention?
- Do I have an intriguing lead-in that is directly related to my main point?
- Have I woven my slant (the story or metaphor in my lead-in) throughout my writing?
- Have I cut out any unnecessary details in my stories?
- Have I shared explanations of Scripture that help my main point, give meaningful insights to my readers, and are interesting to more people than just me?
- Have I included the right amount of cross-references for emphasis, illustration, or explanation?
- Have I developed a well-planned, streamlined flow of thought?
- Would I find this piece of writing interesting if I only read the first line of each paragraph?
- Have I included enough short sentences for emphasis and variety among the longer ones?
- Have I included the Bible translations of all my verses?
- Have I quoted Scripture correctly each time?
- Have I formatted my Scripture references and my endnotes correctly?
- Have I checked my writing for correct grammar and spelling?
- Have I included all the appropriate edits from my writers’ group or critique partners?
- Have I read this piece of writing out loud to catch any typos or awkward sentences?
If your answer is yes to those questions, stop editing! I know, editing takes a lot of work, but the victory we experience when we reach the end is worth all the hard work to create writing that engages, inspires, and instructs. So have a game plan of meeting deadlines. Use this checklist. Edit your way to victory. And remember when to stop.
Do you have any tips to add to the list above? We would love to hear from you.
(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Stuart Miles, and fantasista.)
Get tips on when to stop editing your manuscript from Katy Kauffman. Via @KatyKauffman28 (Click to tweet.)
Katy Kauffman is an award-winning author, an editor of Refresh Bible Study Magazine, and a co-founder of Lighthouse Bible Studies. She loves connecting with writers and working alongside them in compilations, such as Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 which is a 2020 Selah Awards finalist. Lighthouse’s newest compilation, The Power to Make a Difference, was released in January 2020.
In addition to online magazines, Katy’s writing can be found at CBN.com, thoughts-about-God.com, the Arise Daily blog, and three blogs on writing. She loves to spend time with family and friends, watercolor in her new Bible journal, and do yard work in the summer sun. Connect with her at her blog, The Scrapbooked Bible Study, and on Facebook and Twitter.