Monday, March 9, 2015

advice to writers: get a “freditorial” team

Prov 11:14 …in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Blogging is not for the faint of heart -- anyone who has ever read blog comments is aware of this. As a writer, my hope is always to be read and understood. This doesn’t mean that I expect my readers to always agree with me, but that their agreement or disagreement would be formed based on an accurate reading of my message. Because of this, I never post without the help of my “freditors” – my friend editors who offer feedback as co-laborers in my writing ministry. The more trusted eyes I can get on a post before it goes up, the more assured I can be that it communicates what I intend with as few errors as possible.

So, when other writers ask me for writing advice, I don’t offer style tips or opinions on the Oxford comma (clearly, it’s awesome),I start with this: Get a freditorial team and use it consistently. What kinds of freditors have proven the most useful? Here’s who I have on my team:

The Casual Reader
I need this person to read the post like the average person will read it. I’m not looking for much other than how it hit them – what were their overall impressions and take-aways from the piece? Did they understand what they read? It helps if the Casual Reader is familiar with what other bloggers are writing about.

The Writer
This person critiques me on mechanics, style and word choice. She helps me reorganize my arguments when they don’t flow. She is a gorgeous writer herself, and she will call me out if I forget to pair clarity with artistry. She says things like “There’s a rhythm problem in this sentence.” I love that.

The Theology Police
This person checks to make sure I’m not a heretic. Sometimes the smallest word choice makes the difference between truth and error, and one set of eyes won’t always catch the nuance. I don’t have formal theological training, so I don’t need to be convinced of my need for the Theology Police. I tend to think that even if I did have formal training I’d still want this layer of help. I never want to place beautiful words around faulty thinking.

The Devil’s Advocate
This is the person I can rely on to nitpick. She drives me crazy, but it’s the good kind of crazy. She reads looking for controversy or holes in my logic. She’s basically like a rational blog commenter who gets to see an early draft. She says things like, “You can’t possibly do justice to this topic in 750 words.”  She also says things like, “Did you write this mad? I don’t think you should write mad.” Which usually makes me mad. But she’s right.

The Man
If I need a perspective from the other gender, The Man helps me out. And even though we’ve been married for over 20 years, he never complains. But sometimes The Man needs to be a man I’m not married to. Since Jeff helps me process my thoughts so much before they turn into writing, I may need a fresh set of male ears to hear them once they turn into a post. The Man helps me avoid unintentionally communicating gender stereotypes. He also helps me write in a voice both men and women can hear.

The  Doppelganger
This person thinks like me. She cares about the same topics I do and thinks about them extensively. (She's actually much smarter than me. She's like me, smarter.) I send her my drafts to make sure I’ve represented my thoughts and positions accurately. Sometimes I can get so close to a topic that I get sucked into the small points without clearly articulating the big ones. The Doppelganger makes sure I have not assumed anything as general knowledge and helps me keep the main point the main point.

The Specialist
The Specialist provides help on an as-needed basis. If I am writing about worship music, I send the post to a worship leader. If I’m writing to pastors, I ask a couple of pastors to read. I once sent a post to a person of another religion to make sure I hadn’t misrepresented his beliefs in a point I had made. I recognize I’m a prisoner of my own experience to a certain extent. The Specialist helps me write balanced content.

I know, that’s a big team. But I don’t use every freditor on every post - a few posts go to the whole team, most go to some combination, all go to at least one. One freditor may fill more than one role, depending on the piece. But nothing goes up on my blog with zero frediting.

When you read a post on a major platform, it has probably been critiqued by a team of editors before it posts. When you read a personal blog, this may not be the case. The larger a person’s platform, the less likely it is that they are just typing out their thoughts and hitting “post” when they’re done. But I don’t think writers should wait for a big platform to begin seeking more eyes on their drafts. The last thing a blogger wants is to write a post with a gaping error or miscommunication in it, only to find out too late that her words have brought down a hailstorm of justified criticism.

All bloggers learn to expect critique – that’s part of the double-edged privilege of having a platform. Critique doesn’t bother me, but my own poor editing or unintended lack of clarity do. Personally, I’d rather avoid having my post’s limitations exposed by anonymous commenters after it goes live. I’d much rather do due diligence by consulting the input of people I respect and trust before I post anything in the first place. Then, when critique comes, I’m able to remind myself that my words were weighed. There’s peace in knowing that the people who know me best have my back.

So, my best writing advice is this: Let iron sharpen iron. If you blog, build a freditorial team. Through both affirmation and correction, they will hone your writing, helping you communicate with precision and integrity. A writer can ask for no truer friends than those.


  1. This is such great stuff, Jen. I've found exactly the same thing. Thanks for your work building the kingdom.

  2. I've never thought of this but it is a great idea and something I consider putting in place.

  3. Very timely for me! Because of this article, I decided to hold off on publishing a blog post and just emailed it to several friends asking for their feedback. I definitely see the wisdom in an abundance of counsel and will be assembling my own little freditorial team. Thank you again for another wonderful article.... which I'm assuming went through your own freditorial team before publishing. ;)

  4. So helpful! Would love any follow up pieces on how you filter criticism- what you do and don't change in a piece after people give you input.

  5. This was very useful and encouraging, but I most loved, and was most relieved to find, that you are a fan of the Oxford comma! :) (whew!)

  6. Thank you; this advice was helpful.

  7. So generous of you to share this insight. Thank you!