Category: Editing

Let’s be clear about this …

Now, I want to make myself perfectly clear  …

There must be no misunderstanding …

Make no mistake about this …

Blah, blah, blah.  Such well-worn phrases. So overused. Every day, someone, somewhere is prefacing their remarks with such statements of clarity and precision.

And they are usually people of great (self-)importance whose pronouncements are keenly awaited; that are meant to be heard because of the influence they can have on events and the thinking and actions of other similarly (self-)important people.

Sadly, that rarely happens. Words that are promised as leaving no room for error or misunderstanding, merely confuse and bewilder those for who they are intended.

So very few of all the millions of words that tumble forth from the world’s opinion makers possess the clarity that is promised. And considering that much of this verbal torrent is painstakingly crafted by skilled wordsmiths, it has to be assumed that this is no accident.

This does not occur because of unlimited vocabulary or lack of grammatical skill. It is cold-blooded manipulation of the language to distort meaning and cloud understanding.

To describe the practitioners of this black art merely as spin doctors is mealy-mouthed and far too gentle; like calling the Great Plague a bit of a virus.

Take the following as but two examples plucked from the morass of meaningless mutterings that assails us:

“As I have said, and others have said, consistently, it would be irresponsible for the British Government not to look across at the changes that would be necessary regardless of the eventuality, and indeed some of the changes that would be necessary in the event of a no deal would be the same as changes that would be made in relation to us achieving a deal.”

Phew! Understood? All clear? No room for doubt or questions?  Hmm, thought so. Maybe this will help:

“Given the way that things operate, it is highly unlikely that anything will be brought forward during that period that has not already started discussions through the European Union to which we are being party of until we leave and on which we would have been able to say whether or not there would be a rule that we would sign up to or a rule that we would not wish to sign up to.”

So there you have it; no wavering or room for doubt. As clear as the Great Bog of Allen on a dark night.

Both quotes come from Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, a world leader famed for wanting “to make this clear” and then doing exactly the opposite.

But she is far from alone, merely one of the mob building the Great Wall of Obfuscation to shut out any who seek meaning, common sense and clarity from those who shape our pitiful little world.

The Great Wall of China is crumbling, likewise Hadrian’s lesser edifice; people power ripped apart the Berlin Wall and the Trump’s misguided Mexican Wall will hopefully remain in limbo.

This latest barrier needs to befall the same fate before its foundations are too firmly cemented in. And there is but one weapon to use: words, words, words.  But used sparingly and wisely, not sprayed mindlessly like confetti.

Let battle commence.

“The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding”Francis Bacon





John Jess, Seeker of Justice – the Voyager story

Another challenging editing job has reached its successful conclusion, and one of which I am especially proud.

It was a long time in the overall process with much rejigging, rewriting and tightening of the text. Meticulous and determined research produced a voluminous amount of detailed information, much of it revealed here for the first time, that had to be whittled down, ordered and presented in readily accessible form.

The gestation period for this “baby” was lengthy and arduous,; a birth of extended and sometimes labour.

It is a story that needed to be told, and who better to tell it than the main man’s daughter?  Author Elizabeth McCarthy (Jess)  lived with the stresses and strains of this fight for justice for many years yet manages a dispassionate account of the in-fighting, devious politics and outright obfuscation that dominated her family’s life throughout this saga.

The Voyager “incident” has become a major and tragic event of recent Australian history and one that is destined never to diminish. Its impact on the political and naval landscape will long remain with us and this book adds a vital new dimension to the immense and diverse record already in existence.

Mentoring for pleasure

There are days when this already enjoyable job provides additional pleasure.

Such as today with my ongoing mentoring of a writer’s work in progress and the arrival of another two chapters.

It is such a joy to read. The writer combines lovely descriptive passages  with taut and cliché-free dialogue to paint a seductive picture of refreshingly different characters in a fascinatingly different environment.

Then there is the pleasure of the to and fro of discussion that ranges from the large-scale issues of plot and voice down to such detailed specifics  as whether a single word is correct, or even needed.

I am being taken on a ride that gets more exciting as each chapter arrives for review and it becomes increasingly evident that the more that is written, the more confident the writer becomes.

We are about a quarter of the way in and he’s really beginning to hit his straps. He’s off and running.

Watch this space.

Curse of the apostrophe

Once more I ponder the age-old question: what is it about apostrophes that so many people fail to understand?

I am wading my way through a book edit in which two-thirds of the corrections require the deletion, placement or shifting of an apostrophe.

In case you are among the perplexed masses, apostrophes do not denote a plural, as in: lots of comments’.

However, we could do with one in: the mans comments. But not placed thus: the mans’ comments.

Oh dear. I will soldier on …

Horse before cart

Today I have been handed a 107,000-word manuscript for assessment … and it provides an object lesson for so many would-be writers.

It comes to me as a PDF. Why? At this early stage, a simple text document is all that is required. Why go to the trouble of creating a format that is impractical and unworkable for the next stage – editing?

A quick bit of Googling revealed the author had already gone to the trouble (and expense) of obtaining an ISBN. Again, why? It is something else that comes much later – if the manuscript is assessed as worthy of publication.

Google also provided a listing for the “book”, giving every indication that it was published and available, although its creator claimed this was not so despite it having been registered in all the official sources.

Once past all these obstructive preliminaries it soon became clear that this was a work very much in progress, rough and incomplete . The usual wandering apostrophes were everywhere, paragraphing was non-existent, style was inconsistent to the extent that there was no style. As a document purporting to throw new light on a well-known historical event, it ignored the timeline helpfully provided at the start. It rambled and lacked structure.

An assessment could therefore be provided in a few words without going into all the usual specifics. It would state  rewrite, revise, proofread and re-submit.

The simple lesson provided by this request for assessment is to get the priorities right. Those are to complete your manuscript, revise your manuscript, have your manuscript thoroughly proofread and then, and only then, submit it for assessment/consideration/editing.

Once all that has been done, then is the time to think of ISBNs, PDFs, national library registration and uploading details to the web. Remember, it is the horse that always comes first; not the cart.



Assessments and mentoring

Authors of fiction and non-fiction are invited to submit their manuscripts for appraisal at an advanced stage or on completion.
Assessments can be provided of the content, presentation, grammar, structure and any other aspects requested by the writer.
Consultations can be provided on an ongoing basis to mentor writers at all stages of their work, providing guidance on such issues as research, plotting, writing and marketing.
We recognise every writer has different abilities, needs and goals and we tailor our fees accordingly.

Cliches alive!

I offer the following extracts from a novel I am assessing for publication:
‘Glad to meet you honey,’ he said in a distinctly southern American drawl. ‘My, but you are a good-looking babe.’
‘But look honey, if you want me for your date tonight, just let me know. I sure would like that honey.’
‘OK honey,’ Malcolm said, ‘You just put your fannies over there, and what will it be?’

The would-be author seemingly thinks this is a faithful rendition of how Americans speak. Please say it ain’t so.
On the other hand, Americans do tend to think Crocodile Dundee is truly representative of the average Australian. Ah, national stereotypes; you’ve gotta love ’em.

Read and learn

If you want to know how to write good, tight, attention-grabbing prose – regardless of your genre – study the opening chapter of Wyatt, the latest book by Garry Disher. This is masterful. It is economic, rich in the use of words yet sparse and sparing, full of information drip-fed to the reader without them being bludgeoned, crammed with action and brilliant in its succinct description of places and people. Read, read, read – and learn.

Biographies Edited

Let It All Hang Out by Billy Munro
Sex Is For Sinners by Michael Morel
Room With A View by Ross Isaacson
Take The Bull By The Horns by Barry Bull

Non-fiction Editing

Blokes and Dunnies by Jeff Self
Self-help manual by Reuben Phiri
2011: Appointed editor of quartlery Journal of the Cornwall Family History Society
Vietnam, A Travel Guide for Cleear Publishing
The Eternal Search for God by Matthew Hogan
From the Dreaming to the Dreamers by Gavin Dickson
Tower of Power by Bill Munro
Australia’s Water Market by Professor Manabu Kondo
Between The Dances by Jacqueline Dinan