Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Writing Duet

by PeggySue Wells @PeggySueWells

Author of more than 195 books with sales of over 70 million copies, Jerry B. Jenkins has had 21 titles on the New York Times bestseller list. Owner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Writers Guild, he received this advice in his early years as an up and coming writer.

Back in the early 1970s, when I was in my early 20s and had recently married, I answered what I believed was a call to Christian journalism and left sports writing to become Managing Editor of FreeWay, a high school take-home paper published by Scripture Press Publications. 

My boss there was Stanley C. Baldwin, a quiet, unassuming, interesting character that was also a local pastor. He not only edited everything I wrote, but he also second-edited everything I edited. A college dropout, I was now, in essence, getting a taste of graduate school. Every single day I resolved to present to Stan a piece of writing or editing he couldn’t improve. And every day the work returned to my inbox bearing his marks showing things I had missed.  

His eagle eye made me work harder and harder, and while I never got to the point where he couldn’t change a thing (a good lesson – we always need another pair of eyes on our work), over the course of two years I saw fewer and fewer adjustments coming back. 
Working under Stan was the best schooling I ever got. I became a ferocious self-editor, and I still work to polish my writing with each pass. 

The two best pieces of advice I got from Stan were:

1. An article must not be only about something, but it must also be for the purpose of something. 

2. Every piece of published writing is not a solo but rather a duet between the writer and the editor. Develop a thick skin.

My goal to this day is to submit the cleanest manuscripts I can. The most gratifying thing I can hear from a publisher is, “Our editors barely needed to touch it.” 

The Writing Duet - Thoughts on the power of editing from @PeggySueWells on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Tropical island votary and history buff, PeggySue Wells parasails, skydives, snorkels, scuba dives, and has taken (but not passed) pilot training. Writing from the 100-Acre wood in Indiana, Wells is the bestselling author of twenty-eight books including The Slave Across the Street, Slavery in the Land of the Free, Bonding With Your Child Through Boundaries, Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Optimistic dream-driver, PeggySue is named for the Buddy Holly song with the great drumbeat. At school author visits, she teaches students the secrets to writing, and speaks at events and conferences. Connect with her at www.PeggySueWells.com, on Facebook at PeggySue Wells, and Twitter @PeggySueWells. 


  1. Awesome - excellent - awesome post! Thank you.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

  2. “Our editors barely needed to touch it."
    I wish I can get to that point.
    Great article, PeggieSue

  3. Yes, Peggy Sue, as an editor and a writer, I realize I'll never not need an editor to fine tune my work. My goal is to have fewer and fewer mechanical errors so my editor is free to work on nuances and content instead. Thanks for this post :)