3 Ways to Hone the Skill that Can Advance Your Career as a Writer

There are writers. And then there are professional writers.

Over my career as a writer and editor, I’ve noticed one key factor that enables writers to perform their craft professionally.

I’ve said it before, so you won’t be surprised to hear:

It’s the ability to self-edit.

A strong self-editor doesn’t just show up to work; they show up with a seemingly counterintuitive balance of compassion and criticism that allows them to write prolifically and precisely.

That combination is exactly what companies and publishers look for when they hire writers.

Self-sufficient writers know they’re going to:

  • Choose the wrong words.
  • Add distracting tangents.
  • Repeat information.

But since they are aware of their mistakes and disciplined, they produce more sophisticated content than writers who don’t rigorously examine their own work.

Here are three practices that strengthen your self-editing skills.

1. Form your structure

Readers quickly navigate away from articles that don’t flow smoothly.

However, your first draft is almost certainly going to be a mess that no one other than you will understand.

To tackle this obstacle, assign yourself deadlines for each phase of your writing process.

Plan time to:

  • Explore your ideas.
  • Shape them into a presentation.
  • Fine-tune your message until a reader can effortlessly follow along.

And when you think your final draft is ready to publish, review it one more time. The “secret sauce” I reveal at the end of this post helps ensure you clearly guide your reader through your content.

2. Encourage a transformation

What will a reader get out of your writing? How will they think or feel differently?

Once you’ve established a solid structure, add details that enrich your writing voice and remove the parts that don’t serve your readers.

Your writing has to be personal, but not self-indulgent.

As you review each sentence, ask yourself:

“Does this text contribute to the transformation my reader wants?”

You’ll establish a connection with your reader faster when you succinctly make your point in a believable way that inspires action.

3. Value accuracy

Content managers and editors want to make writers look great. They’re less enthused about correcting sloppiness.

When they find factual errors, inconsistencies, and excessive typos, they wish the writer took the time to review their final draft as if it would be published without any further editing.

Use this simple checklist to spot and correct five of the most preventable content mistakes.

  1. Names: Google the names of people, places, products, and companies to verify they are spelled correctly.
  2. Days/Dates/Years: Every day of the week should correspond to the correct date and year.
  3. Times: Start times of events should be double-checked.
  4. Hyperlinks: Any hyperlinks should go to the intended web pages that enhance your content.
  5. Templates: If you use a template, don’t leave any sections blank or republish outdated information.

The secret sauce

Proofreading is typically an undervalued (and half-assed) part of the writing process.

It doesn’t feel fun or creative, so it’s treated like an afterthought.

But it’s a mandatory step for self-sufficient writers.

My favorite way to catch mistakes in everything I write and edit is to proofread from the end of a document to the beginning. You can learn how to implement that technique here.

Be the artist who treats their craft with the utmost thought and care. It leads to better relationships and more opportunities for creative work.

Professional writers know that attention to detail is never a waste of time.

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Don’t Just Write Pastor Books, Write Serious Books

When most pastors write books, you can bet they’re compiled from sermon notes and manuscripts. Preach a series on fear, and they end up with a book on the subject. Same with marriage, prophecy, grace, epic Bible stories – whatever. I don’t discourage that, but don’t think for a minute that’s a serious book.

Writing is different than speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a “book” isn’t very impressive. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, here’s what I recommend:

1) Go ahead and do these books I call “pastor books.”  After all, content should be maximized, and when you preach, that should be available  online, through radio and TV, podcasts, and other places – including book form.  But understand where these books line up on the food chain. These are books that will mostly help your congregation and other members of your social media or broadcast tribe. These books can often be good, but rarely make a big impact.

2) Next, focus more on your life’s work, or what I call your “One Big Thing.”  Every 3-5 years, create a book that you pour your life into. Do the deep research, interview expert sources, and do everything you can to make it significant. Sit down and actually write it – don’t just preach it. That kind of book deserves serious planning, a real publisher, marketing campaign, and possibly an agent. It should be something you’re incredibly proud of and will stand the test of time.

Pastor books are good for teaching, as fundraising premiums, or product offers through your media platforms.

Serious books change people’s lives. But you’ll never write one if you think transcribing a sermon magically becomes a book.

Shared from Phil Cooke

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5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Consider Writing a Book

Writing isn’t a desire or skill I was born with.

You see, I’m dyslexic and re-learned how to properly read when I was 22-years-old. The idea of being a pastor, author, and publisher was something I’d never dreamed of doing.

But over the years, I noticed a gradual change in my life and interests. I discovered a passion for reading, which led the way to a passion for writing. I found myself looking forward to writing papers for graduate school and excited to research and write my sermons.

I didn’t notice these changes at first. It wasn’t until some years had passed by that I realized I enjoyed reading and writing as much as I did.

But there are five fundamental things that set serious writers apart from the rest.

I started making opportunities to write, received positive feedback, and was inspired to push through my challenges after hearing from people that my writing encouraged them.

Since becoming a pastor, I’ve discovered many reasons why I should pursue my interest in writing and write a book. If you’re a pastor and you’re thinking about writing a book, here are five reasons why I believe you should consider doing so.

1. Calling

I don’t consider myself the best writer. Far from it. But I do consider myself called to write.

Writing is a legitimate extension of pastoral ministry. In the words of Tim Keller, “It is part of the ministry of the Word.”

If you desire to write, then write. But remember this: Writing well takes time. So, if you believe you are called to write, prayerfully consider if you have the bandwidth in your life and ministry to pursue your passion as a writer. There are seasons in my life where I need to put my writing on pause in order to focus on other important things.


As a ministry of the Word, writing is a great medium to serve others within your church and beyond. Writing is a great complement to your preaching. It’s a way to reinforce your message, add additional insight, and better resonate with people who best learn through reading.

If you’re not ready to write a book, consider writing a newsletter for your church, starting a blog, or expanding your thoughts via social media.


The church I pastor gives a free copy of my book to every visitor. This isn’t a ploy of self-promotion, but an opportunity to help those who are visiting to connect with the guy on stage. It adds value to those who are attending by letting them know we understand everyone has a story, and the way Jesus influences our story is worthy of sharing.

I’ve had many people who joined our church tell me that after reading my book they felt like they knew me. In a church who longs to be relationally connected with Jesus and one another, I would say this is a win!

4. Opportunity

Writing and publishing a book has afforded me, and the leaders in my church, the opportunity to talk about Jesus with people who may typically hesitate to discuss spiritual matters with a pastor. It has also provided us an opportunity to encourage people to tell their story without fear of judgment or retribution.

For our people to feel comfortable enough to share their story, we have to be comfortable enough to communicate ours, and we must do so in a way that is scalable as our church grows.

5. Legacy

Capturing how the Lord has influenced your life in the form of a book creates a lasting legacy of the example of His grace. Not only does it build connectivity locally and increase the opportunity for ministry, but such a book allows you to point to your Savior long after you’re gone.

Some leaders have messages they want to share other than their testimony, which I think is great! These messages still display the glory and redemptive quality of God in human lives.

As a pastor and publisher, I love to guide fellow pastors to realize they have a message deep within them. Not only that, but the act of writing and publishing that message will lead to deeper connectivity, opportunity, and legacy in their lives.

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