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Seven Cs: The Elements of Effective Writing
41 How-To Tips for Creators

VI. Collaborative

You can save yourself a lot of grief by getting someone else to read your work and provide feedback.



Birthing published pieces such as articles and books usually requires several parents—not only the author but also an editor, graphic designer, copyeditor, proofreader, fact-checker, marketers, and distributors.


It takes a village to create a successful commercial piece.


Even for smaller ones such as posts or blogs, it pays to follow the sixth element of effective writing: Make your work collaborative.


The biggest reason is to save you from the embarrassment of saying something wrong, tone deaf, or cringey. You can save yourself a lot of grief by getting someone else to read your work and provide feedback—a friend, colleague, or professional (Pro Tip 33). Protect yourself from writing material that is careless or crazy (Pro Tip 8) by having others vet your work, particularly if it is high stakes, say, in a prospectus for a start-up.


Besides protecting you, collaborating can make you a more professional and effective writer. Even if you are sensitive to criticism, gathering feedback and getting help are part of good writing. Involve family and friends. Join a writing group and have other authors read and respond to your work. If you are creating a book and can afford it, hire a literary agent or editor to guide your writing.


You may also want to collaborate to build buy-in to what you are trying to accomplish, particularly in business, government, and education. Involving others early can build Awareness, influence Attitude, and prompt Action—what I call the Three A’s of Effective Marketing (Pro Tip 36).


Beware, of course, of paralysis by analysis. Though it’s important to get input, don’t warp your writing by having, as the cliché goes, too many cooks in the kitchen. Get enough experience to tell when too much feedback muddles your mission. Hold true to your vision, even as you gather constructive criticism from others.


The truth: Collaboration is difficult work. It’s hard to weigh the opinions of others without getting your ego stung. Seek input and weigh it fairly, but at some point you need to take responsibility for your vision. Ultimately, the byline on the work is yours. Even if it becomes uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to push your perspective and produce a piece of which you can be proud.


Once published, you will likely receive feedback on your work, such as fans’ or trolls’ reactions via online platforms like Twitter or Reddit. Annalee Newitz, a science journalist and science fiction author writing in The New York Times, says of the influence of social media on today’s fiction:


Call it the age of fan service. Pop culture will never be the same, but maybe that’s a good thing. As online fandom transforms storytelling, it is also revealing a fundamental truth: The lone writer in a garret, disconnected from the world, was always a myth. No one creates in a vacuum, untouched by the demands of the marketplace and the cultural conversation of the moment. From tales told and retold around fires to those filmed, spun off and rebooted in Hollywood, storytelling has always been a communal process.

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