Writing fiction can seem to be quite an intimidating task.
Perhaps you have a particular message or specific ideas and thoughts that you would like to share? Write these down.
Think about who you think would like to read your book. Write down the answers to these questions.
- Who is your reader?
- Why will they want to read your book?
- How do you want them to relate or react to your story?
Think about the experience that you would like to create for your reader. Write down the answers to these questions.
- What you would like your reader’s response to your writing to be?
- How and why will your story be a satisfying read for your reader?
Think about your plot or storyline. Write down the answers to these questions.
- What is your plot?
- Are there any twists and turns?
- Does your plot make sense?
- Is your plot believable?
- Are you answering any questions that your reader might have?
Now think about the characters in your work and how they behave. Write down the answers to these questions.
- Have you given a full enough description of all the characters and a good explanation for why they do what they do?
- Do their actions and viewpoints make sense?
- How will the characters develop/grow?
When do you want to publish your ebook? We recommend that you set a deadline for when you would like to publish your book and then set a daily writing goal for yourself and stick to it. For example, you could aim to write 1 500 words per day. You could thus have your entire first draft of a novel within a month! When you set your deadline give yourself at least 3 to 6 months for the revision and editing process that takes place once you have your first draft. Don’t worry about editing or trying to fix things as you go. The first step is just to get the words down.
Once you think you have a complete draft and you are happy with it, put it away for a week or so. Now that you have words on a page you can revisit and redraft your material. This is the heart of your writing process. Answer these questions about your draft now.
- Is there a logical flow to what you have written?
- Does everything make sense?
- Are there any gaps in what you have written?
- Does everything add up?
To get to the very best manuscript, be prepared to write and rewrite many drafts. You may have included some facts in your manuscript to make your work of fiction more believable. Or perhaps you have written a work of non-fiction? Once you think that you have the very final draft, take one further look at all the facts in each chapter. Just be a fact checker. Did you do your research? Are all the facts you have included accurate?
Three useful people
There are three people who can help you ensure that your writing is excellent.
- A critical reader
Once you are satisfied, identify a person whom you think will be a good critical reader. This could be a friend. A critical reader is not someone who finds fault and criticises the writing. It is someone who is able to analyse both the good parts and see the faults in your writing; this is someone who will give you constructive criticism. Ideally, this person should be a regular reader of the genre and category in which you are writing. If you can, try to get more than one person to read your book critically. While they are evaluating your manuscript, put it aside. When you get their feedback, you may wish to go through another round of revising and perfecting your manuscript. Remember, you can decide what feedback you would like to implement. If more than one person is saying the same thing, it is probably a good idea to revisit these areas of concern.
- An editor
When you believe you have a final manuscript, we recommend that you have it copy-edited. You should have your work edited before publishing it so that you can publish something that is of the highest possible quality. Remember, the quality of your writing will determine your readership to a large degree. You will have to pay to have your manuscript edited by a professional.
There are different kinds of editing that can take place. Detailed, substantive editing where an editor works closely with you as the the author to improve, rewrite and re-organise your manuscript is editing at a more fundamental, deeper level. Note that if you are looking for an editor to work very closely with you and do this kind of developmental work with you on your manuscript it will involve a much higher fee.
A copy-editor (also known as subeditor or a language editor) will usually not perform the more fundamental editing described above, but will focus on a detailed editing for sense (this will include checking the grammar, sense and style, as well as logic and language use). The editor will also check for consistency. This is a very important part of the copy-editing process. For example, the copy-editor will check that the same term or spelling is used throughout and either create a style sheet or follow a publisher’s house style requirements. One of the main functions of the copy-editor is to eliminate all errors while the manuscript is still in MSword because in this format it is easy and cost-effective to fix. When it has been formatted or put into a typesetting programme fixing it is very expensive.
A copy-editor is usually also responsible for preparing the manuscript for the next step in the publishing process. This can include tagging or formatting and styling the electronic file so that it is ready for the next stage of the publishing process. For example, this will include preparing files for the typesetter or preparing the files for conversion to a digital format.
The copy-editor is also usually responsible for checking first page proofs and, depending on your brief, they could also correction-check each set of page proofs for your print edition.
You will then need to work through the editor’s comments and corrections. This will most likely mean another round of revision.
- A proofreader
Finally, we recommend that you have your book proofread as the very last stage just before publishing your material. A proofreader reads to spot any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. The proofreader should not be the same person who edited your manuscript. You will be amazed at what a good proofreader can pick up in a book that you think doesn’t really need proofreading, including issues with plot and character. Once you have made the proofreader’s corrections there are only a few more technical steps required before you can publish your eBook!
Remember, you always have the final say on whether to implement any of the recommended changes you receive from a critical reader, an editor and/or a proofreader.
Editors and proofreaders
Membership of the South African Translators’ Institute (SATI) is open to all translators, interpreters, editors, proofreaders, text reviewers, terminologists, copywriters and anyone else involved in the language practice industry. You can search for editors and proofreaders in all South African languages listed on the SATI website here:Find a language practitioner
The Southern African Freelancers’ Association (SAFREA) publishes an annual Freelance Media Industry & Rates Report. The links below will give you an indication of the going rates for freelance editors and proofreaders.