Monday, 2 April 2012

Towards a better book: Some basic editing tips

"No one is perfect."

Simply, you can't take shelter under this simple sentence. We should always aspire for perfectness though we all know it's a chimera. When we chase the mirage, why not perfectness? Let her go away, we must follow her to the wall.

A good book is the best friend we love to have on our shelves and feel proud to have read that. As a result of the quality of the book we praise the writer. This assumption in the minds of readers always attracts them to a particular writer.

But a bad book, full of bollocks, typos, grammatical errors and editing glares always help to release the pooh-pooh in the minds of readers. They just hate the writers and even publishers also come into picture.

Now don’t ask me how such books hit the shelves. This kind of books tarnish the image of the publishers and writers and in a way exposes the literature of a country. This carelessness is really bad for literature as a whole.

Writers happen to be immersed in the story and flow of words. They just go with full speed and in the process of typing typos creep into the manuscript. Further they happen to be myopic to minute things in their own creations.
Now what the publishers do is a matter to think. Why this occurs as a book goes with several stages of editing. Then after multiple chaffing and straining why a book happen to be full of grammatical errors, typos and editing glares. Simply, it can be said, no effort was made for bettering the manuscript. And as a result of this a book fails to attract readers.

Being a reader I’ve come across a lot of books by Indian writers with lots of typos to take away the reading pleasure. This can be avoided, if some preliminary precautions are taken by writers.

First draft: no check, no grammar, no choice of words…just move on with full speed. Let the idea, scene flow and you have a base (the first draft) to build an edifice of beauty and grace: the final book.  

Second draft: Do have a gap of time before a re-look. In the meanwhile new ideas, new scene might crop in your mind. Just add them. No editing in this phase.

Third draft: You have a better manuscript thematically, okay? Now have a cooling time, withdraw to a wormhole, write some poems, write a short story or play a game. Refresh and recharge yourself.

Fourth Draft: Print a copy of the manuscript and do offline editing. Adding, chopping, bridging and other activities are done at this stage.  And you will find the Ms with so many red scratch marks as if bleeding. Be merciless to your creations. Add everything in your digital copy as you progress through the process of offline editing. Finished? Here another sub process begins.

First of all…do some Ms Word tweaking. Go to status bar and see the English (US or UK). Change the language preference and for sometime choose one as Default language. This will help you to check the different US and UK spelling. Press CTRL A. This will select the entire document.

Now start the process of editing in your Computer. Divide the Manuscript chapter wise. Make a doc for each chapter. Increase the Font Size to 22 or more. This will make the red and green wriggles clear.

Take care, as sometimes....MS word also behaves oddly. Do check the red wriggles for typos. Remember, names of city, place, food, characters are also red lined. First click them one by one and add them to the dictionary of the MS word. Done? Now those things will not be red lined. You have got dictionary words now to check. Check minutely and you’ll find a lot.

Read between lines, check the homonyms...peg-pack, sign-sigh, its-it's, then-than, it's-its. They are bound to be there. Avoid them.

Check for missing letters left out in the course of typing in keyboard. Red wriggles will guide you in this direction.

Check your repetitions. Use different words for the same thing to give a literary flavour. This increases reading experience. Use pronoun or synonyms.

Check you INGs. Try to make them EDs. Check your Wases, Passive voice, use of adjectives and adverbs. Too many is not good. Always describe feeling of sense organs, which is what eye sees, you hear, feel by skin or taste by tongue. (Eye, Ear, Nose, Skin Tongue.)  

 After one or two months I’m sure you will have a polished manuscript with minimum errors. Remember, they may be there but it needs a different pair of eyes.

Again print a copy and do some offline editing. In this stage, you can tweak sentences, here and there to maintain the flow of paragraphs and ideas. Update your digital copy by and by.

Finally, give a soft copy to your beta readers or friends for line editing. Listen to their suggestions, add them or reject them, completely up to you. Remember choose five people as at this stage a plethora of opinions you can’t handle. Further, while choosing, think of the literary background of your friends as some may not give that extra for various reasons.  

If possible do backward editing, that is starting from the end to take away your mind from the story.
Now you have a query worthy manuscript. Good luck in this process as you are bound to have a love affair with the lady called, Rejection. She seduces with all writers. Though all writers avoid her still she never leaves anyone. So don’t worry, if you pass her, you’ll meet another lady that is called success. Isn’t she a pretty good girl? Of course, she is. Happy writing and serving the cause of literature.

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