What every wannabe author ought to know-Part III


In the previous two issues mentioning fourteen tips, we discussed how to start writing a fiction, now let’s see how to write an impressive manuscript. We all know that writing a manuscript is an art, but forwarding it intelligently to the publishers with a brief synopsis is also an art. Here’s how you can master these arts:

  1. Manuscript — Use words you think in

    Most writers make the mistake of using incorrect English or complex words. Avoid doing either. Write as you think. Use words that already exist in your vocabulary. You are writing for an audience that doesn’t usually include William Shakespeare or Francis Bacon. Imagine you are writing for college students, so tell them your story in a reader-friendly language.

    For instance, do not write a line like “She bamboozled him further by procrastinating their meeting, emphatically dilating upon the fact that her maternal uncle mentions constantly that her marriage to Sudarshan has enhanced the acrimony quotient between their hitherto friendly families, even as she hinted that they also ought to henceforth eschew confabulating with each other on any happenstance, be it personal or professional…” All/most pure OHT (overhead transmission), isn’t it?

    Now consider this: “She confused him further by postponing their meeting, stating clearly that her marriage to Sudarshan has made both their families rather bitter about each other, even as she threw a hint that they also ought to avoid talking about anything, whether personal or professional…’’

    Still, that line is too long. The mind’s attention span is much smaller. Better to write short sentences. Max ten to fifteen words per line. Once you master the craft, do whatever. Of course, you are the best judge.

    Sample this: “She left him feeling totally confused. ‘Why has she postponed our meeting on such flimsy grounds?’ he thought. Ever since her marriage to Sudarshan, their families had drifted atpart. And now all this bad blood was also spilling over at work. She suggested that they avoid discussing anything…”

    Don’t over-simplify things either. One or two tough words, here and there, which your readers can understand in context is fine in any given sentence. But don’t flood your book with it. Let the dictionary or thesaurus do that job.

  2. Know your grammar

    I normally see debut authors making horrendous grammatical mistakes. Either they were plain over-confident or didn’t take time off to check the dictionary or internet — laziness is so silly. Double-check anything that you write. Do not insult the readers by feeding them incorrect stuff.

  3. Be your own editor and proof-reader

    Remember, the editor at a publishing house is mainly a commissioning or acquisitions editor — and he/she is not there to improve or edit or tweak around with your work. Their team will of course remove or repair minor blemishes in your MS, but give them something real untidy and you can kiss your dream project goodbye.

    So before you dispatch your MS, make sure that it’s as close to being as error-free as possible. Have some friends (those good at English, not Swahili) reading your stuff and marking corrections. Go through it again and again and again. Just running a spell-check isn’t enough. It can’t tell the difference between ‘love’ and ‘lose’, ‘loose’ and ‘lose’, etc. So your novel might have something like ‘I lose her’ when you mean ‘I love her’. Or it might carry something like ‘I was afraid to loose her’ when you mean ‘I was afraid to lose her’. You have to read your MS letter by letter, word by word, and space by space. Tough, but who said being near-perfect was easy?

    The best thing to do is to read aloud the entire MS to yourself. When you say the words, you will identify the errors easily. Ears are better proof-readers than eyes — unless you are an editorial hawk, like me. Just kidding! If I reposed total faith in my eyes, why would I be reading out my MS to myself?

    Or you can have some freelance editor or blog writer go through it for a small fee. Your call!

    I use a great internet resource, www.thefreedictionary.com, for checking my stuff, and www.urbandictionary.com, for slangs.

  4. Plot development

    I guess you don’t need to worry too much about this if you have a good story to tell. But do keep in mind that if you wish to churn out a page-turner, then bringing in some kind of twist, some type of innovative take on things every now and then will keep your readers interested in your story. It is better not to make it too flat: She saw me, I saw her, and we fell in love.

    Contrast that with: When she first saw me at the tea stall, I gazed more at her Fab India kurti than her beautiful face. Every time she saw me stealing a few shy glances at her, my eyes politely nose-dived towards her jute handbag or kolhapuri slippers. I would discover later that we had fallen head over heels in love with each other exactly when my gaze settled on a book she was reading: Mr Right usually has Two Left Feet. I had felt she was reading my biography.

    This is exactly what creative writing is all about. Create memorable characters, establish their personalities, describe their tastes, moods, aspirations, thoughts, weaknesses, and make the audience feel as if they are watching the story unfolding in print.

(To be continued in next issue)

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