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Writing and Editing Advice from our Editorial Head – Bidisha Dutta

Bidisha represents the Editorial at 16Leaves. Literature has been her passion since her school days. Over the years, she has developed a penchant for words and their correct usage. Counselling, mentoring, guiding, editing, suggesting, ghost writing, and content development had been her forte. 

Bidisha has handled and assessed raw manuscripts submitted by authors and decided on the feasibility to get them published. She has conducted ‘Book Launches’ for authors, workshops for wannabe authors, and deep-edited raw manuscripts in terms of language, plot, structure, and presentation to make them publish-worthy.

She has guided and advised authors who are industry leaders and role models in their respective domains. 

We take you through an interview with the Self-Publishing Expert in our Q&A session below…

What are the different types of editing services?

Editing implies both content and structural changes, re-writing, and elimination of errors…

Copy-editing – where the main content is not touched; only grammatical and spelling errors and ambiguity along with fact and name checks are done. Heading levels are also formalized.

Content editing – where the editor evaluates the content, eliminates repetitions and unnecessary content, and adds relevance and value adds by improving the language. This kind of editing involves extensive re-writing of the original content. The entertainment or utility value of content, the target reader base, and the aim of writing the book are kept under consideration throughout the editing process.

Ghost-writing/Content development – where the content is majorly developed from brief pointers, voice recordings, broad outlines, and various sources of input from the author.

What should one look for in editing?

  • Elimination of grammatical and spelling errors, unacceptable language, biases, and repetition of content and ideas.
  • Making ideas clear and easy to understand and communicate to readers
  • Re-writing sentences for simplicity and better understanding
  • Structuring content on a scientific basis to achieve maximum retention of reader attention
  • Presenting the content in an interesting and effective manner

How does an editor copyedit a novel?

When copyediting a novel, an editor

  • goes through the content carefully;
  • reads the style sheet thoroughly (creates one if there isn’t one – very important to set the language and style as US English, UK English, etc.);
  • checks for structure – headings, subheadings, lists, indented paragraphs, quotes, etc.;
  • goes through the content for spelling and language errors, ambiguity, repetition of content, biasness, and offensive content such as hate language, racism, gender bias, swear words, etc.;
  • raises queries wherever they differ with the author or where content modifications are required;
  • puts across suggestions in the comments section for value add;
  • conducts a spell check at the end positively before submitting the file.

What are some tips on self-editing for fiction writers?

  • Be sure of the aim/purpose for writing the book and the target audience
  • Give special attention to plot, structure, character portrayal, setting and storyline
  • Get your hook right – something that can generate enough interest for the reader to read through the whole book 
  • Check whether you are misleading your readers through your blurb or book; setting a specific kind of expectation and then moving on to a different topic will make the readers feel duped
  • Check whether the climax is logical to the progress of the story
  • Check if the resolution of the conflict of the story carries poetic justice
  • Think of the end as something you want to keep hanging or resolved, according to your writing style
  • Include short interesting sub-stories/anecdotes or dialogues/episodes, check for flow of sentences, read for continuity, gaps in the storyline, and loose ends left dangling
  • In the end, see if you have pulled the strings together for all unfinished suspense episodes or at least left a hint to keep the reader guessing. 

What are some basic rules of editing?

  • Language need not be flowery but should be correct.
  • In effective communication, your reader should be able to understand what you want to say
  • There is no scope for grammatical and spelling errors
  • Chuck out content that you feel is not needed to forward your storyline; they induce drag and boredom.

What changes about work when it experiences an edit? What is lost, and what is gained 

Nothing is lost in editing; every manuscript should be edited by a self-editing or professional editor. It is a cleaning process for your manuscript. The value addition that happens is immeasurable. Redundancy is removed, errors are rectified, plot and structure tightened, characters more deeply etched, and focus strengthened.

Good editors also take care of author expressions, feelings, and language and retain them as is so that originality or authenticity is maintained and content gets polished and filtered.