Refining: The Most Exciting Part of Writing and Speaking
As writers and speakers, we build with words. We are content “creators.” We follow God’s promptings to share the message He has given us, because we can’t keep His work in us to ourselves. We simply must share what we’ve learned the hard way and give God the glory for how He’s changed our lives. This is the drive that pushes us to learn, practice, and prepare to speak or to study the writing craft.
So, we write that talk or type that manuscript. The rush is amazing and awe-inspiring. We are heralds experiencing a holy moment. God is speaking through us into our notes or onto the page.
If you’re like me, these creative sessions of putting into words what God has done are a time of remembrance. I re-experience God’s redemptive work as I prepare to reveal it to others. Without fail, the more I write, the more I am compelled to worship.
Now, the words are on the page. We breathe a sigh of relief and excitement. And we should—getting the words out is a crucial first step. Hooray! Unfortunately, this is where many writers and speakers stop. They are ecstatic at having created, yet they’re fearful, ignorant, or overwhelmed at the thought of editing. Change a single word of all God has led me to share—won’t that harm my message? Won’t that limit the impact? Weren’t these words God-inspired?
Let’s start with the last concern first. Yes, the words were inspired from God to you. The message was to you, first. The fact God did a particular work in you means He trusts you with that message, then He calls you to share it. After all, we can’t teach what we don’t know. We can’t share what we don’t have.
Now, let’s tackle the first two questions. No, and no. In fact, unless we are willing to extensively edit and refine our work, our message might be unclear, and therefore, unpalatable to the audience.
Consider the work of God that birthed the message within you. If we’re honest, we must admit God refines us over time. He works in us layer by layer. He starts in one area, and we receive the benefit throughout our lives.
So it is with perfecting a talk or book. Yes, the original message was for you as an individual, but now you are attempting to share it with the masses. The target audience has changed; therefore, the presentation must change. While you created or wrote, every detail seemed valuable and rich with meaning. They were—to you. Now, you must prefer the reader over yourself. You must ask yourself “What does the reader need to know?” to get the maximum benefit. Many accomplished writers describe this as “changing hats” from writer to editor.
Here are critical questions to ask when refining your work:
- What format should I use? For manuscripts use Times New Roman, size 12 font, double-spaced throughout. Center chapter titles at the top of a page, double-space, then left margin justify the first sentence of a new chapter or section. Between sections, type your subheading at the left margin, double-space, and begin again at the left margin. Use the tab key to indent paragraphs. For talks, how much time do I have? Where am I in the speaker line-up? What tone should I use? Is my presentation interactive? Should I prepare and include handouts?
- Who is my audience? Consider all aspects including age, gender, and marital status, etc. If speaking or writing to a specific group such as foster parents, what are their specific needs?
- What is the takeaway? Think: What do I want the listener or reader to remember after hearing me speak or reading my book? What’s the main point and benefit?
- Is my passion for this message evident in every story, line, or paragraph? When we marry our passion with our takeaway, we can deliver a talk or manuscript full of power and conviction that will indeed change lives.
Editing and refining our work is how we build a bridge from our message to the listener or reader. When we recognize that, we can learn to appreciate and embrace the process, even though it can be painful, hard work. I call it the most exciting part because it means I’m close, really close, to achieving effective ministry—my ultimate goal.
Question: Once you’ve prepared a presentation, a manuscript, article, or blog, how do you refine your speaking and/or writing?
Shellie Arnold believes the redemption Jesus offers us as individuals can heal and restore any marriage. Her novels, The Spindle Chair, Sticks and Stones, and Abide With Me, depict the “perfect storms” in marriage—what happens when our weaknesses hit head-on, and we’re both left wondering if anything can be salvaged. Shellie is offering an Advanced Manuscript Review at the July 7-9 Speak Up Conference.