Working together in writing

As an editor, I work with a lot of people. When preparing articles for each issue of the print edition of Japan Harvest magazine (the original source of these online articles), I work with up to 40 people. This includes authors who submit their writing as well as the Japan Harvest team who works not just to edit the material submitted but also present it appealingly to our readers. This entails both attention to detail as well as relating to people (even if a lot of communication is via email).

Early on in my writing and editing journey, I learnt that it was vital for me to work with others in order to produce excellent work. To this day, I am surprised at how many things I miss when editing other people’s work and when writing my own articles. I’m very happy when people kindly point out my errors. Alas, not everyone is used to others critiquing what they write, and it can be hard to take. Here are a few pointers:

As a writer

  • It’s always worth finding a second (or more) pair of eyes, but look for discerning readers, not just people who will pat you on the back.
  • Try not to take critique of your writing personally.
  • Listen carefully to what the other person is saying—they offer a different, fresh perspective and probably have something good to say.
  • Listen very closely if they are an editor of a publication you are writing for. They know things about their publication that you may not.
  • Don’t cherish your words too highly. Sometimes it’s the things we love most that need to be removed to create the best piece of writing.

As an editor

(be particularly careful if you’ve not been asked for your opinion)

  • If you have a correction to make of someone else’s work, do it with a kind and gentle spirit and give clear reasons.
  • Keep in mind that it is not your work but the author’s.
  • Listen to the writer, especially if they come back with complaints about what edits you’ve made or suggested.
  • Often, making suggestions rather than changes is a better path. Let the author make the revisions.
  • Pay attention to more than just the small details (like spelling and punctuation). The big picture—is the story cohesive or does it leave unanswered questions—matters, too. (See “Editing your work” for a useful editing checklist.)

Let’s work together to produce the best writing we can!

Wendy Marshall is the managing editor of Japan Harvest. She’s learnt most of what she knows about writing from her international critique group, Truth Talk. She’s Australian and works with OMF International.

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