Intentions don’t make a doctor, or an editor!

Let’s say someone comes to you and says, “I love serving human beings and I am hard working. I think I will make a great family doctor for you.” Would you hire him as your family doctor? In a sane state of mind, you would not unless he is a qualified doctor and has gone through the years of training and practice needed.

Point is that certain aptitudes and a certain kind of attitude may be necessary for you to enjoy your job, but they can not be a replacement for the skill that can only be acquired by training or practice. We often have people telling us that they have studied in English medium schools, are good with English, are avid readers and hence would make good editors. It may sound right to many of us, but trust me it does not make a good editor.

Good editing is an acquired skill and you need to work on learning and enhancing it. You may be good at English in general but when you start editing, you might suddenly find yourself wondering if there should be a ‘the’ here or not. It is not good enough for you to ‘think’ that a ‘the’ should be there because it sounds right that way. You have to know exactly whether it should be there or not.

That was an example of grammar part of the things. There is more. As writers or speakers of a language we all have our own style. But as an editor you have to have the ability to identify author’s style and make sure your editing does not destroy the style. We have seen people who replaced all the casual Hindi phrases from an Indian English novel while editing. Right thing to do as far as language in concerned, but just not the right thing to do as the editor of a fiction book. The Hindi phrases were a part of the style, the narration. Sometimes the style involves elements more subtle than this. If you have not understood the techniques involved in editing, you may end up returning a manuscript worse off than what it was when it came to you!

There is also a difference in editing content in different forms. A website article is not edited in the same way as a full length fiction novel, which in turn needs a different kind of editing than a STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) book.

Just like a person who has not studied medicine and does not know what treatment is right for a particular condition would do no good to the humanity with his intention to serve as a doctor, an editor who does not have the right skills would do no good to a manuscript. In fact, in both cases they may end up doing more harm than good.

However, one difference exists between editing and medicine. Getting trained in medicine without formal education in that area is close to impossible. With editing, however, you do not need corpses to experiment upon. You can go for self-training with the help of appropriate books, Internet resources and the Wren & Martin and equivalents from your school days. Then of course, practice makes a man (and woman) perfect. So, if this is the kind of job that interests you, start your self-training and practice right away.

So what does this mean for an aspiring author looking to self publish or may be just looking for feedback? Firstly it is important for any self publishing author to be aware of all the skills that are important for creating a good book. Editing is one of the most important ones without which your content may just not be up to the mark. If you are planning on self-editing your manuscript, you may need to go for some self-training here. Secondly, even if you are hiring someone to do the job for you, it is important for you to know what is expected of the editor, be able to choose the right editor and communicate effectively with him.

Let the best writer-editor pairs bloom! provides book editing and proofreading services in India.

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[Self Publishing Guide] Self Publishing your Book – Step 1: Finalize the Content

This post is an excerpt from our Self Publishing Guide for Indian Market. If you have not, you may want to read the following post in this series before starting on this one

You have finally finished your book and are dying to see it in print. Since you have decided to self publish, nobody prevents you from going ahead and printing copies of your book. But hang on, there are a few more tasks to be done, decisions to be taken before you can see the birth of your creation. As they say, haste makes waste.

Step 1-Finalise the content. You should not write a book and forget about revisiting it. You need to go through the manuscript in minute details and revise it if required. In the initial excitement of having completed the book, authors tend to overlook checking for mistakes in writing style.

Remember, no matter how talented a writer you are, it always helps to have another person look over the entire book. The greatest writers in the world have had their work ruthlessly edited. Editing does not mean your book has to lose its style/flavour. As a self publisher, you retain the right of final judgement on anything.

The editing options available to an independent author are

  • Professional editor.This is the costliest option. However, it will ensure that you get an unbiased professional look at your work from a third person’s perspective.
  • Editing by friend/acquaintance. You could approach a friend with good language skills to go over the manuscript and do a frank, ruthless critique.
  • Self editing. The third, option is to go over the manuscript yourself for spotting problems. This is the least you must do. Remember, errors can be spotted more easily if you review your manuscript after a gap – say, a couple of weeks.

General editing checklist. There are certain common mistakes we tend to commit in our writing.

  • Getting repetitive. Repetition – of a sentence or words or ideas – can be used as a tool to emphasise a point or an idea, but beyond a limit, it becomes counter productive.
  • Narration, flow and writing style. The book should be consistent. The storytelling should not be disjointed or abrupt. The tense and narrator’s person should be consistent. The best writers break many rules, but they know the rules like the back of their hand before that.
  • Contradictions. Care must be taken to ensure that the characters/information/incidents mentioned do not contradict each other in different parts of the manuscript.
  • Readability. You need to ensure that the sentences are lucid and readable – not too long or complex.
  • Clarity of narration. While editing, emphasis needs to be laid on checking that the narration is clear and conveys the ideas or description clearly. Check if certain portions need to be rewritten to improve clarity and narration.
  • Flow of the book. The overall flow of the book needs to be logical. Check if the organisation of the chapters is fine or if it needs to be rearranged.
  • Grammatical errors. Last, but not the least, the language needs to be grammatically correct. Sentence construction, prepositions and articles, punctuation, verbs, tenses, spellings – everything. Nothing will be a bigger turn-off for a potential reader than spotting a grammatical mistake in a book.

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