Can I write the first draft and then turn my book over to an editor?

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Cory sent me an e-mail with the following question.

“I can’t spare the time to write my book and I don’t want to use a ghostwriter. Can I write the first draft and then turn the book over to an editor?”

I think that could work, but there are conditions and consequences. The main condition is you must be completely ready to write so that you produce a top-notch first draft. The most important consequence is that you’ll produce an OK book, but not a great one. You’ll lose all the benefits of doing multiple drafts. That was the short answer. Here are some details.

Condition: You must be fully prepared

If you’re only going to do one draft before handing the book off to an editor, that draft better be a good one. You’ll need deep knowledge of your subject matter and market. If you’re an expert who’s been doing speeches, workshops, blog posts, and articles, that’s possible.

You should have used those communications to get the important stuff right. You should have worked out an effective order of presentation for your ideas. You should have stories, examples, and research to support every key point.

Condition: You must pick the right editor

There are a lot of editors you can choose from. Look for an experienced editor, one who has successfully edited books like yours. Ideally, the editor should be familiar with your specialty or industry. He or she should already know the jargon.

Consequence: You miss much of the learning journey

Many of my expert clients have told me that writing their book was a deep learning experience. The writing process forced them to catch up on the latest research. They sought out experts to interview and some interviews turned into friendships or professional collaborations.

There’s another benefit, too. When you wrestle the angels of meeting onto the page the process of writing and editing forces you to be precise.

Consequence: You settle for OK instead of striving for great

Great writing is rewriting. If you skip the rewriting, you skip the quest for greatness.

Your first draft will get your key ideas down in order. When you review it, you’ll spot key ideas that should run through the entire book. You put those ideas in when you write the second draft.

The third draft is where you sharpen your arguments and phrasing. It’s usually the draft we send to beta readers. Those readers add insights, corrections, and suggestions that will make your book better.

You create a fourth draft when you incorporate the ideas of the beta readers and sharpen your thinking and language. Writing several drafts and using beta readers won’t guarantee you a great book, but you can’t write a great book without that kind of rigorous process.

Takeaways

You can get a book but not a great book.

You must be fully prepared to write.

You must have examples, stories, and research for every key point.

You must pick the right editor.

You miss the learning journey.

Great writing is rewriting. If you skip the rewriting, you skip the quest for greatness.

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