Today, we have an elaborate and personal narrative from Sujata Rajpal, the author of ‘The Other End of the Corridor’. She speaks about her personal experience with editors and why is it necessary that every author finds himself a good editor.
On to Sujata…
Last week at a writers networking event I got to meet many fellow authors including a few aspirants. One of the participants I interacted with told me that he has paid 50 K to a self-publishing platform for editing and publishing services. He looked at me with mouth open when I told him he could have used the services of an independent editor for much lesser amount instead of this platform which is known for its shoddy editing services. ‘Editors? Aren’t they the same as publishers?’
It is understandable if a layman doesn’t know the difference between a publisher and an independent editor but when it is the author who has written a full length novel, one feels like saying ‘go to pre KG first’.
‘But isn’t it the job of the publisher to edit the manuscript?’ a freelance writer joined in the conversation.
‘My dear, you are right, your publisher will edit your manuscript but that will happen only if the manuscript is accepted.’
A poorly crafted script with grammatical errors and typos is the biggest turn off for a publisher/agent. Every author needs an editor. Even Chetan Bhagat has an editor.
Editing is of two types. There are editors who give feedback on the plot, characters, any gaps in the storyline and the overall flow whereas In-line editors read every line of the manuscript and comment. I wonder how the authors worked during pen and paper times. These days everything happens at the click of the mouse. Attach the word doc in the email to your editor, she/he will edit the doc with track changes and revert. Accept or reject the changes. Simple.
Not many outside the literary world know that the profession of professional editors is a booming industry; the professional editors edit your manuscript for a fee. Good editors who have the capability to turn around your manuscript are in huge demand. Their professional charges range from Rs 10,000 to 30,000 depending on the number of words.
What an editor will not do:
Your editor will not rewrite your manuscript. S/he is an editor and not a ghost writer.
S/he will not change your voice.
She will not give you things on a platter, she will only give suggestions. The hard work will have to be done by you.
What does an editor do:
The editor will read the story objectively. A writer cannot edit his own story because it is difficult to judge our own work. The author is in love with his work; in his own view he has written a master piece something which deserves nothing less than a Booker prize.
Besides fixing the grammatical errors and sentence structuring, the editor also helps in uplifting the overall language.
Choose your editor with prudence:
Beta readers are not editors. A beta reader can be anyone, a friend, a family member even a neighbour. They are mere readers with different reading preferences. While working on my second full-length book, I gave a few chapters to a friend to read who is a voracious reader. She replied the next day. She has finished reading in a few hours, my book must be a page turner, I thought.
‘What you have written Suju, there is no sex, no extramarital affair in your book, it is bland.’
She was right, sex sells. I immediately inserted a steamy scene.
Another beta reader replied after a fortnight, ‘Write a thriller, your book is too slow. Who wants to read family drama?’
Taking her advice, I killed a character. But while incorporating the suggestions of my beta readers, I realized my voice is lost somewhere. I am writing what people are asking me to write and not writing the story that I want to tell. I stopped showing my work to beta readers and hired an editor instead.
When I was looking for an editor, at some point, I thought finding a good editor was as difficult as finding a publisher. Since in India, there is no legal contract between the writer and the editor, there is a possibility of your manuscript getting into wrong hands. You never know while you are still busy writing the climax scene, your book is proudly displayed on the bestselling shelf of a book shop but with someone else’s byline.
I have been lucky to get very good editors for both my books. The second book is still unpublished so I will call it manuscript. Rasana Atreya who was my editor for my debut helped me close the gaps in the plot. She very aptly pointed out the echoes in the story. For my debut, I had three editors sequentially but for my second, my initial experience wasn’t so pleasant. A good writer need not be a good editor, this I realized only after burning my fingers. An acquaintance who was also a ghost writer agreed to help me edit my book for a fee. ‘The first draft would be ready in three months and then the final book in six months. There wouldn’t be any restrictions on the number of editing. Just keep writing and sending,’ he wrote in the first email. Wow, a fully edited book in six months, I must be lucky to have found him. I immediately paid advance and after a month paid the next instalment. He was a good writer; he claimed he had written someone’s book within a month. Whenever I emailed him a few pages, he will revert with a few cosmetic changes. My story was still in nascent stage and needed more than cosmetic changes but I waited for the next round of editing. After a few weeks, I realized he was neither adding any value to my manuscript nor sticking to timelines, I bade him goodbye. Later he apologized that he had some family issues so he couldn’t focus on my project but I had lost money as well as time. I learnt my lesson the hard way. I should have made everything clear before signing up with him. The timeline, mode and the time of payment, how many rounds of editing etc. Will there be refund of money if there are delays? It is advisable to have everything in email to avoid confusion.
Go for recommendations. Connect with authors whose books you admire. Try to reach out to their editors. But sometimes recommendations may not appeal you. When I was looking for an editor for my second, someone recommended an editor who had his editing company but when I asked him to send me the names of the books that he had edited, he refused to share the names on the pretext of maintaining confidentiality. Come on, what is there to be confidential about it? Are you a doctor that I am asking for the diseases your patients have. I am only asking for testimonials and any editor will love to flaunt their names. Naturally I had to drop off that name.
For my second manuscript, after the first reading, my editor Sucharita Dutta Asane told me what my story lacked, its strengths and areas of improvement. After I worked on her suggestions, she did the line editing which helped me uplift the language and take my script to the desired level. While I was working on the changes suggested by her, she gave me the liberty to call her whenever I was stuck in the web of words. One morning I gave her a distress call, ‘Sucharita, the entire story is running smoothly but the moment I start working on this x character, my hands stop moving, my brain can’t function. What do I do?’
‘Sujata, are You, the author is telling X what to do? Why are you dictating her life? Stop doing that! Now you have created her, let her decide how she wants her story to be told.’
The editor had hit the nail on the head. I followed her advice to the T and soon my fingers were flying on the keyboard.
Of course it costs money to hire a good editor but who says good things come for free.
Sujata Rajpal has done MPhil in Economics but she says Economics became history when she fell in love with the written word. She writes short stories and articles for Deccan Herald, Womensweb, Bonobology, Huffingtonpost , Femina, Star of Mysore and other publications. The Other End of the Corridor, her debut book is her first attempt at fiction writing and she is loving the imaginary world. Tell- a- Tale, a web portal selected her debut as one of the six books by Indian authors which broke stereotypes. The novel is now in its third reprint. After thirteen years of corporate life, she quit her job as the head of Corporate Communications & PR function of an IT company in Mysore to pursue full-time writing. She is now ready with her second book. Sujata lives in the beautiful city of Mysore. Apart from writing, she enjoys being a Toastmaster and is often invited as a speaker to CII, Rotary clubs, Toastmaster clubs and colleges.
Connect with her at:
Check out her book on Amazon.