by Kristine Coblitz
I never set out to be a technical editor.
A few years out of college and desperate to get a job in the journalism field where I could actually put my degree to use, I answered a classified ad looking for a news editor for a trade journal about the thermal-processing industry. Granted, I knew absolutely nothing about the thermal-processing industry (or engineering, for that matter), but I got the job, was promoted to managing editor three years later, and spent almost eight years editing press releases and articles about heat-treating furnaces, steel, and powder metallurgy.
(Still with me so far? Don’t quit reading yet.)
Now I’m a home-based freelance writer and editor. My biggest job is working as the editor of--you guessed it--yet another engineering magazine, this one dealing with fluid power.
It seems I’ve found my niche.
When I tell people what I do for my day job, I watch their eyes glaze over when I talk about thermocouples, hydraulics, and die casting. Several of these well-meaning people ask how I can stand to do something so BORING. I mean, who cares about furnace installations and packaging machinery, right?
I often wondered the same thing when I was starting out, especially when I was under tight deadlines and pulling my hair out over typos and production snags. My perspective changed, however, when I met a few of the engineers and company executives who actually read these magazines. They care. A lot. Keeping on top of what’s going on in the industry and reading articles about emerging technology is the foundation of their businesses…and their livelihoods. This is how these people earn their paychecks. It’s not just a magazine to them.
Talk about a wake-up call! Never again did I question the validity or purpose of what I did for a living.
I’ve carried this valuable lesson over to all aspects of my technical and fiction writing career. I have a responsibility to my readers, and they deserve my respect. It’s my duty to give them what they need—either by getting the facts correct in a technical article or by providing a credible escape when they flip open the cover to a mystery novel.
Does the hard work really matter? You bet it does.