Saturday, June 30, 2007


By Eric C. Forbes

IT IS IMPERATIVE that writers learn to revise and self-edit their typescripts before sending them off to editors or publishers for consideration. Most writers tend to send their typescripts without polishing them up, hoping that their editors will clean everything up for them once they are accepted for publication. The fact is, most editors will just ignore the manuscript and go on to the next one.

There really is no one way to write a book. Or even to edit one, for that matter! Honestly, after being an editor for so many years, I still find the task of editing a manuscript monumental and nerve-wracking. In fact, most of the time, it is a task fraught with trauma and hair-pulling (not that I have much of it left anyway)!

Editing can be a very traumatic experience, but when both writer and editor work well together, the end product is something to behold. Lydia Teh, the author of Life’s Like That (2004) and Honk! If You’re Malaysian (2007), is one Malaysian writer who believes in and is not afraid of rewriting and revising; she is a joy to work with because she is really passionate about her work. She’s is indeed God’s gift to editors! Other passionate authors include Lee Su Kim, Adibah Amin, Tunku Halim and Xeus. They are always willing to go the extra mile to get the details right.

Writers should spend more time on punctuation because that’s where they are usually weak at. There’s nothing wrong with checking up on the basics of punctuation. Good punctuation brings clarity and makes writing more powerful.

Why the importance of self-editing? Firstly, there’re not many good editors to go round not only in Malaysia but elsewhere too. Good editors are hard to come by. Most publishers, sad to say, do not believe in investing in good editors or good editing skills. And good editing skills can only come from excellent writing and grammatical skills, good rewriting, revising and research skills, etc. Also, a disposition that is meticulous, detail-oriented and observant. And you can’t exactly learn these skills overnight, believe me. They come from years of experience editing, reading and writing. Yes, and lots of hard work, too. And there’s only so much an editor can do with a manuscript, what with the other duties that editors are obligated to do besides editing. Editors don’t just edit, you know. Therefore, writers must make an effort to ensure that their manuscripts are of an acceptable standard before editors work on them.

When typescripts or manuscripts are badly written, I would advise writers to rewrite them because it is too time-consuming and expensive an affair to have them edited and to be re-submitted for reconsideration at a later date.

I do wish things would improve. Most of the manuscripts I receive are not only badly written but lack content or substance; there’s not much in the way of depth or breadth or width in the writing. It’s rare that I receive one that I can sink my teeth into.


Blogger Argus Lou said...

Hey, Eric. I'm not sure I covet your job. ;-) But I agree with you on all your points. Proof-reading is also very important for a polished finished product; publishers really should invest in it.

I was disappointed that 'Confessions of a Rubber Planter in 1950s Malaya' (Monsoon Books, 2007) was not as well proof-read as I'd expected. For e.g., several times 'of' was used instead of 'off' and 'your' became 'you'.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 2:25:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Forbes said...

Hello Joon Yee - Yes, there must be a better way to earn a living. But publishing is my life. I agree with what you say about proofreading. The only way to minimise spelling errors is various rounds of proofreading.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 4:15:00 AM  
Blogger Lydia Teh said...

Hi Eric

Thanks for the mention. Now gotta pull up my socks some more.

Thursday, July 05, 2007 8:42:00 PM  

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