In this section, we are going to look at how to write the best possible manuscript. These ideas can go a long way towards making your writing more readable.
Before you write
The following information will tell you more about how your work is protected by copyright. You can feel safe that your right to own your own work is protected so nobody can use it without your permission.
What is copyright?
Copyright is your legal protection against other people stealing and using or misusing your work (intellectual property). In South Africa, The Copyright Act of 1978 protects the following types of original written work: novels, poems, plays, short stories, film scripts, textbooks, articles, encyclopaedias, reports, speeches, etc.
Your copyright is valid for your whole life plus 50 years from end of the year in which you die.
For a work to be protected by copyright
- it must be original; that is, the work has been produced by the exercise of skill and effort by the author
- it must have been written down or recorded in some way.
Copyright in South Africa does not need special registration because the Copyright Act automatically protects works created by South Africans or in South Africa.
For answers to frequently asked questions on copyright, please visit the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) website: http://www.publishsa.co.za/copyright/faq
What if I want to publish something that I didn’t write?
If it is not your original work then you do not have the right to publish it. This would be plagiarism (stealing another person’s work). You may publish only something you did not write/create yourself if you have the legal right to publish this material.
If you want to use someone else’s work you need to get written permission to use the material and, in most instances, this will involve a fee. There will also be terms and conditions that you will need to adhere to and you will also need to acknowledge the source of the material (according to the terms and conditions of the copyright holder).
If in any doubt, always seek permission before publishing and then fully acknowledge the author or creator of the work. Remember, this does not just apply to text but includes any recorded material such as photographs and illustrations, drawings and paintings so, if you use an image from the internet, remember to track down the source and obtain the owner’s written permission to reuse it.
Prepare your mind
Make sure that you are reading a lot. This will expose you to
- how writers choose words. An excellent vocabulary is vitally important for a good writer.
- how writers construct their sentences. How you vary the length and structure of your sentences can play a big role in keeping your reader reading.
- how writers structure their work to fit into a genre. This will give you good exposure to the genre and you will be able to see what works well and what doesn’t. It will also help you to understand fully the expectations readers will have when they are choosing a book in that genre and category. In this way you can make sure that you don’t fail to meet your readers’ expectations. (More about this later.)