Editing is a complex job which, when done well, enhances and improves a piece of writing in a subtle, unobtrusive way, helping it reveal itself more fully, and more truthfully.
In order to achieve this, an editor works with a writer to tease the text apart and then knit it back together in a new, improved way. The book must work as a coherent whole, and be free from errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, facts, omission and context. All this must be achieved while maintaining the integrity of the book, and without compromising the writer’s own voice. It’s a difficult and highly skilled job, for which there is little formal training available, which demands a high level of talent, intuition, knowledge, discretion and tact.
So when I hear writers insist that their work does not need editing, and that they aren’t prepared to change a single word, I become more than a little irritated.