Editing a book is like tuning up an engine.

The greater percentage of people (including me) are at least somewhat aware of the things we know and don’t know.

For instance, cars: We pump the gas into the tank when the needle is on “E” and we take it for an oil change a couple times a year but what about all that stuff going on under the hood? Most people have no clue about engines, transmissions and the like. We drive around thinking about where we need to be, when we need to be there, singing along with the radio. We trust that the machinery will continue to operate and we hope that we have enough money to fix it when it doesn’t.

The same could be said of editing.

Most writers simply write. This is as it should be and is analogous to putting gas in the car’s tank and going for a ride. (This, by the way, is not a criticism but an observation.)

Some rewrite, just as some drivers replace their own worn-out windshield wiper blades and burnt-out turn signal bulbs.

Fewer yet edit their own work, just as fewer people overhaul their own transmissions.

There’s a reason for professional editors, just as there’s a reason for Aamco.* It’s two different skills and time has shown that editing is a necessary step the process that begins with the inception of your idea (book, website, press release, etc.) and ends with publication (and, hopefully, wild success).

You write because you need to. You have a passion to communicate. Or some how-to knowledge that would help people. Or your boss just told you to “Write the copy” or “Get the press release out.” You have dreams of a bestselling novel (or book of poetry?) or a world-class campaign roll-out. You have ideas.

Returning once more to our car analogy, most drivers don’t consider the sequence of events that brings about internal combustion and so it similarly is with with writers and writing.

There is nothing wrong with this. When one is writing, one should be concentrating not on editing but on writing, just as when one is driving, one should be concentrating not on the engine but on the road.

At the risk of “driving” the car analogy into the ground, I will say that one can certainly continue to drive a car for which the routine maintenance has been neglected but please don’t publish anything for which the routine review and correction (editing) has been likewise neglected.

Let me know if I can help you with this.

* For my non-U.S. readers, “Aamco” is a U.S. chain of transmission repair shops.

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Steve Wagner is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer-editor whose clients include the public relations firm MWPR, in Burbank, CA and the diversity consulting organization Global Collaborations, Inc., in Houston, TX. If you are seeking a professional editor, contact him at swagner (at) writer-editor-etc (dot) com and he will be happy to talk with you about your project.


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