For centuries the world had been divided into two distinct groups, writers and non-writers; but at the turn of the century, social media and various tools available online made every person in possession of an idea and the ability to express it, a writer in his own right. Writing started to evolve. Writing broke all shackles of being restricted to a handful, and there emerged a new crop of writers across the globe. While some continued to pursue traditional publishing deals, others ventured into self-publishing.
Each kind has its own merits and demerits which we will discuss in the next post. Here we will start with the very basics of writing, because if you’ve written your book already but have not edited your work, you’re most definitely going to be woken up by a rude shock, and for those who still have to get on with their writing, you’re too early, and the information you gather on publishing today simply won’t be up-to-date.
So let’s get on with the firsts:
If you’ve not started yet and the prospect of completing an entire manuscript intimidates you, then start small. Start with simple musings of nothings. Pen down conversations you hear on the tube, or describe the ghetto you pass everyday on your way to work. More often than not you will stumble upon a thought or an idea so powerful that it will accelerate your writing and push the engine to complete your manuscript.
Remember, writing is all about not writing. So don’t fret on the days you don’t write. Instead, focus on creating your story arch, developing and identifying motives for your characters, or just putting a timeline together. Once you have something on paper, you will find that getting on when you start writing will become fairly easy.
If you’ve written your first draft already, then take a break from it and revisit your manuscript when you can look at it objectively. The sure shot way of identifying key issues you would like to fix in your book is to read out loud the work to yourself.
Remember, your first draft can never be your last draft. Consider this as just your blueprint, the real work starts now.
Editing and rewriting
“All writing is rewriting – John Green”
So here it is: rewriting is the real writing. Here is a list of things you need do yourself, before your manuscript is ready to be sent to a professional for further improvement.
1. Eliminating Discrepancies:
First and foremost: Read your story and map out all major and minor plots and look for any or all plot holes, fails, inconsistencies or discrepancies in your first draft.
Take a look at all your supporting characters and subplots and make sure they are all tied back to the overarching theme of the novel. Ask yourself with every scene and character: Why is this here? Is it really adding value to my story? Answering these questions will help bring clarity to the story and bring out hidden agendas of all characters.
2. Character Development:
It is now time to put on lenses specifically designed to examine character development. Look closely at how and where your characters start. What do they stand for, how do they present themselves to the readers. Look at where you want them to go. This will determine the choices the characters will make in pressure situations. Having a clear roadmap of where a character will start and where you want him to end will help you carve out his reactions in scenes of conflict.
“True CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure – the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature”- Robert McKee
After fixing all the bugs there, look for language errors in sentences. Read each paragraph and look for the tense you have used. Ensure you use the same tense throughout the book. Then do a round of proofing and eliminate spelling mistakes, typos, and finally follow that by an inspection for punctuation.
This process will ensure that every word the manuscript contains, is necessary and was intended by you to be there. Without the above taken care of, consider your manuscript not ready to be sent to a professional editor.
“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”
– Vladimir Nobokov
Quick Tips to better your writing:
- Avoid adverbs like the plague. Instead, make your verbs stronger.
- Look for repetition and redundant words. Kill them.
- Words like ‘very’ and ‘really’ need to be eliminated from your draft.
- Study the technique of ‘show not tell’.
- Don’t use words you’re not familiar with or comfortable with.
- Dialogues should be placed to inform the reader of something specific, remove all chit-chat.
- Do not ape another writer, find your own style.
(NOT your family/or friends)
Your manuscript needs honest opinion and feedback. Our first instinct is to give it out to family and friends, or even acquaintances who we know socially, who read. Resist this temptation. Most of the time you won’t get any feedback that would benefit you, or get feedback that may backfire altogether.
Look for trusted beta readers in your town, city or even on the internet. Send your work to them along with a questionnaire asking specific questions. Ask them questions that will help you understand your problem areas. Do not take advice from your beta readers on how to fix these issues, they are merely here to tell you what worked or did not work for them and why.
Not all feedback from beta readers may be correct. My suggestion to you is that if you get similar feedback from 3 or more beta-readers, look into it, they might be onto something.
Hiring a professional team
(The need of a good editor and a great proof reader)
“All first drafts are shit,” – Ernest Hemmingway
Irrespective of the path you go down: self-publishing or traditional publishing, do not, under any circumstance, deny your book the opportunity of an editor. A good editor can make an average book good and a good book great. Work alongside your editor and consider all their suggestions, because it is never personal. However, if you feel strongly about something, defend it until either you’ve convinced them or have been convinced yourself.
Also, one cannot rely on Microsoft Word or Grammarly or various online tools for proof reading. This is still one job that technology has not been able to take away from humans. Get a good proof reader who will ensure your commas and full stops are all in the right place. A book with typos and punctuation mistakes will die its own death before the chance of bloom.
This is all for now, keep looking at this space for our next post on publishing and the math of books.
If you have any ideas of comments on writing, post your views in our comments sections below.