It’s easy to think we can accomplish something on our own—to think that I’m strong enough to carry this all by myself or that I’m smart enough to know what to do. But whatever project we take on, we would be wise to surround ourselves with a good team who won’t let us shrink back.
As I mentioned in my post last week, working with my “revision team” was a critical part of the writing process for my book. With them, I got to experience firsthand that IRON SHARPENS IRON.
I love that metaphor for my revision team because they helped me as I chipped away at my chapters, molding them to be just right. Their feedback made my chapters sharper, smoother, more beautiful, more powerful.
My conversations with them sharpened my motives and my vision for this book. Through their responses to my chapters, I could see how my words would affect readers. I had to then consider, Is that what I really want to communicate there? If so, is that how I want to say it? Or are my words missing the mark?
Sometimes someone on my revision team would make a suggestion, and I’d consider it and then realize that particular suggestion did not align with my vision for my book. So I didn’t use that suggestion, but just the act of considering it helped focus my vision for my book.
So today I want to thank everyone who read even just one chapter for me! Thank you to Rachel, Amy, Stacey, Emily D., Elaina, my sister Shari, and Mom! You guys helped me to get this book started, and it was fun to hear your thoughts on my beginning chapters. Thank you!
And then there are those who spent even more time meeting with me and helping me and encouraging me along the way... Just to give you the backdrop, my book has 27 chapters, and for every chapter, I had at least 2 people read it with me before I sent it to my editor. When I met with each person, I asked him/her to read the chapter aloud. Then I’d ask these questions:
I’d write down their responses. After I talked with each person, I’d revise the chapter until I was satisfied with it.
As I worked through the book, I realized that it was important to stick with the same “revision team” because they were already aware of the rest of the book, and we were already in our groove of how to have these revision discussions.
Meet My Revision Team
My dad—Dad has spent decades critiquing his sermons, so he has plenty of experience in making improvements to a “message.” He’s probably my biggest fan and probably the most “honest” person on my revision team—I’m thankful he would tell me things like “Your introduction is weak compared to the rest of your chapter.” I know his insights have helped me to make my book better. Even though we didn’t discuss every single one of my chapters together, Dad always wanted me to send them to him because he was excited to read them. (I also sent my chapters to Mom, but I usually didn’t ask Mom to read my chapters for revision because she loves everything I write, and she is way too biased to be able to give me constructive criticism. Lol)
My brother Dave—Dave didn’t really have a choice. I would just text him, “Are you home? I’m coming over so you can read my next chapter.” But he was a trooper, SUPER SUPPORTIVE, and he’d read through it and give me his perspective. It was immensely helpful to have Dave available to give me feedback right when I needed it. It was cool to see which parts he connected with! :)
My friend Erin—Since Erin and I are besties, she got pulled into the revision process as well! Sometimes after we’d hang out, I’d ask her to read a chapter. If I wanted to know if something sounded weird, I’d ask Erin because I knew she would tell me the truth.
My friend Sarah—Besides my dad, Sarah is probably the person who has read the most chapters for me. Technically, I wrote my very first draft for my book (even though I didn’t yet know it would be used for a book) the day Sarah left for Thailand in 2013. So it’s fitting that she’s still a part of the book process with me.
As she helped me revise, I came to really trust her perspective. Once when she was reading a chapter as we were eating dinner at McAlisters, she told me that the chapter seemed like it was written by two different people. I laughed and told her that I wrote one section 4 years ago. Her instincts were right on. I then rewrote a lot of it and made that chapter into two separate chapters.
My friend Emily G.—I can’t even tell you how special it has been to have Emily read parts of my book with me over the last several months!! Emily and I grew up together at church, and we had been really close during middle school (I probably had more sleepovers with her than anyone else). Then our lives drifted apart after high school, and we hadn’t talked or seen each other in about 8 years. Then we reconnected this January, and I asked her to help with my revision process.
It has been so fun to hear her read the stories from my life that are in my chapters because she is hearing them for the first time, and it’s like we’re filling in the gaps of what we missed of each other’s lives from the last 8 years. Emily took the time to read several of my chapters, and it meant so much to me to see her connect with the messages.
My friend & intern Janay—Janay was my women’s ministry intern at the church this past summer, and before the summer started, I asked her if she’d be up for reading through some of my chapters with me. She agreed! Janay is super fun and trendy, and I really appreciate how she keeps a wise, biblical perspective as she seeks to engage in the culture of our generation.
Usually on the Wednesdays when she was working with me, I would bring in a few chapters, and we’d sit in my office while she read my chapters aloud. Janay was my “newest” friend on my revision team, so she probably knew the least about me before she read my chapters. But that was definitely a benefit because it was great to have a fresh perspective on the things I shared. I loved my conversations with Janay! And I know it’s only a matter of time before she writes a book too! :)
And there you have it: Little by little, iron sharpens iron, a book is sculpted, and we get to offer this as a gift to others.
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.