Remembering footie, politics & John Kaputin
Connecting the dots on West Papua, Part 1

Writer, if you can, get yourself a good editor

Editor (Bing Image Creator)
The editor -  some really know their stuff and some mistakenly think they know their stuff (Bing Image Creator)


TUMBY BAY - I first tried my hand at freelance journalism in the 1970s. It was a hit and miss process and I never had the knack for the job. Longform non-fiction and creative writing is more my style.

That admitted, during lulls in the creative process, when the book or short story I’m working on hits a roadblock, I fill the void by having a go at a few journalistic pieces.

It’s a good way to maintain the discipline required by writing, and as a bonus I invariably learn something new.

This learning usually comes about through the editorial process. When I submit an article to a publisher, be it through print or digital media, it is invariably edited.

Unlike writing a book, this is something in which I never get a say or to which I'm allowed a comeback. There’s no haggling about what the final outcome looks like.

This makes the editing process something of a lottery. Sometimes the outcome is good, sometimes it’s less than satisfactory.

In the latter case, what generally occurs is that my original intent is so transformed as to be unrecognisable.

And yet the piece still retains my name as author and I have to wear the criticism.

That's the bad stuff. But it's when the outcome of the editing is positive and good writing happens that learning occurs.

Good outcomes depend very much on the quality of the editor. There are capable editors and there are terrible editors in this game.

Editors are a bit like reviewers, some really know their stuff and some mistakenly think they know their stuff.

And some are vindictive. Their main intent is to cut down authors. Diminish the authors they can never be themselves.

With creative writing there is a weird contradiction. I’ve had glowing reviews of a story and derogatory reviews of exactly the same story.

Because of such disparities, I’m inclined to ignore bad reviews and stick with my intuition about what I’ve written.

That sounds a bit brutal. Actually I’m more discerning. If I think criticism is justified, I’ll use it. Or at least learn from it. If not, I’ll ignore it.

With journalistic pieces such a balance is much harder to strike because the outcome of the editorial process is impossible to predict.

It’s like the law of the jungle. After a while, you get to know where the good editor animals live and where the bad ones lie in wait for you.

As PNG Attitude contributors know Keith Jackson is a pretty good editor.

He can tidy up a piece and add stuff to it to generally produce a very good outcome.

Lots of Papua New Guinean contributors, in particular, have seen their work polished to good effect by Keith.

And they’ve learned a lot about writing in the process.

I’ve edited quite a lot of Papua New Guinean writing, both through the former Crocodile Prize for Literature and through the many books I’ve published on behalf of writers.

Believe me, editing some Papua New Guinean writers can be a taxing experience.

The only complaint I’ve got with Keith’s editing is that he’s prone to introducing inadvertent typos.

I guess that’s due to the volume of stuff he is required to edit while compiling PNG Attitude’s daily fare.

Fortunately he’s open to correcting typos and other peccadillos if he’s asked, which is unusual in an editor.

Commentators on PNG Attitude often laud the opportunities the blog provides to showcase Papua New Guinean writing: this being one of the few places where a public platform is available

Largely unseen is the learning curve provided by the consistent editing of a writer’s work over time.

If, down the years, you have followed the development of Papua New Guinean writers published by PNG Attitude, you can see how they have evolved in refining components like style, voice, clarity, vocabulary, structure and, of greatest importance because it’s the first rule of good writing – an awareness that there’s an audience they’re writing for.

The early work of Leonard Fong Roka or Sil Bolkin or even Francis Nii stands in stark contrast to the quality of their later work.

I derive great satisfaction in seeing this evolution, and I’m sure Keith’s the same.

There are hard yards in editing. Sometimes great ideas need to be rescued from a tangle of words.

It’s a real skill to ensure writers communicate what they want to say precisely and to greatest effect.

And to do this without interfering with the writer’s ideas, arguments and truths.

So, if you can, get yourself a good editor.


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Justin Kundalin

Yes we need good editors (Phil edited my first book), but we also need funds to get it published.

Editing is a profound job and readers enjoy a good book because of the editor's input.

Also a jumbo thank you to Keith for the prolific work of editing and publishing articles here in PNG Attitude. I owe much to Phil and Keith.

Thanks Justin. Phil and I are delighted to help (which is more than can be said about an uninterested PNG government). Phil's commitment to long-form writing has produced or instigated 70-80 books over the last 10 years. My continuing to publish PNG Attitude continues to ensure that PNG's talented writers and commentators get the editorial assistance they deserve and the public exposure they need - KJ

Dominica Are

Very true, Phil. We need a second pair of eyes (very good eyes) to bring out the better versions of our writing.

Appreciate all that you and Keith have done in polishing our work. It has greatly helped.

Simon Davidson

I concur with Phil. PNG Attitude, through the skilful editing of Keith Jackson, has helped many PNG writers to correct blunders in typos and peccadillos in writing, so that style, voice, clarity, vocabulary and structure is clear for the reading audience.

I personal have benefited enormously. Thanks, a zillion, Keith.

Bernard Corden

"Newspaper editors separate the wheat from the chaff and then print the chaff" - Adlai Stevenson

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