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The process involved in producing a book

HAVING written over 16 books now over the past 20 years, it has not been an easy process to produce a good book. Allow me to share my experience.

Books based on interviews: Interviews are usually carried out over a period of time with the subjects providing information about themselves.

Often than not, the interviewees cannot remember most of the circumstances around the incidents; what's more, the details -- for example, the colour of the shirt they were wearing, the people they met and what was said -- which are important in re-creating the incident to make it appear authentic.

Hence, it is only possible to produce what is given. The result is the first draft of the manuscript is based on your input.

Some people are better writers than they are in speaking; hence, during the interviews, information provided is in bits and pieces. Sometimes, I have to put in a lot of my own "assumptions" based on my own research of what really happened just to fill in the gap in order to provide the settings for the story.

Otherwise, it is a tough job for me to try to write an entire chapter when there is insufficient information given. But, isn't it true that this is a case where the output can only reflect what is the input? Input = Output.

What I think is important to go into the chapter, you may think is unnecessary or "rubbish!" This is where we have to sit down together to remove the dross from the pure metal, before the rewriting process begins.

Producing a book is a very long process not worth your time. Just hire me to do it for you. This poster only suggests what the process is like, but it is not a fixed rule for all publishers.

Rewriting. The final draft at the stage of writing is usually quite disorganised. This is because as the writer, I am only beginning to feel around the subject and beginning to see the entire picture.

The rewriting has to begin here. This is where efforts are being put to rewrite the entire piece, but boy, there is going to be a lot of work if this process is completed without getting your feedback on the content of this draft!

Time would be wasted once the draft is rewrittten, and suddenly there is a need to drop some entire sections and add on other sections. This is because at the stage of the interviews, it did not occur to you that you had missed out an important part of your life. However, as the writer, it means additional work and time wasted.

This is where I appreciate people who know how to reward me for the additional work. For one gentleman who paid me a huge sum, I did not mind to rewrite his entire book due to some unforeseen circumstances that hit him. He was heavily criticised by the media; therefore, the angle of the book would have to change.

Personally touches. Ideally, if the interviewee is a writer herself, it would be good for her to provide some personal touches to the draft to reflect her voice, especially if it is an autobiography.

However, most people are not writers themselves. They would not know how to put together a book themselves. When it is done, they somehow do not think that the book reflect their thoughts. Read back the first section of this article "Books based on interviews."

This is where I need the subject to tell me how she normally says something if the additional conversation inserted to make the story come alive does not gel with her.

A good book may require me to do several rounds of rewriting, with the help of proofreaders picking up the silly mistakes that my eyes fail to see in the draft.

Editing. Editing is an important process. A good book can be produced if there is an independent editor paid to carry out his task.

This gives the draft the further uplifting in quality and standard. One of my best books is "Where is Pastor Raymond Koh?" where I had an editor friend to countercheck the work done. We then sat down together to polish the draft, not once but a couple of times. I believe this book can meet international standard.

Editor's eyes pick up what the writer cannot see. When I edit someone's work, for example, I would be able to see bretter what the original writer could not see.

However, most people are unwilling to fork out more money to pay an editor, and if they do, they will want to take it from the amount that is payable to me who is doing the bulk of the work.

It is not impossible for the writer to also be the editor. I have done this for a number of my clients who do not see the need for an editor.

However, my advice to the client is to spend a few thousand Ringgit more to pay an editor friend of mine to do the job. What is important is the quality of work must be of international standard.

Proofreading. The final process is the proofreading process. This process is important to check on grammatical or spelling errors often made due to long hours of working on the book itself.

Here is where it is good if we can hire professional proofreaders. They can be very expensive. However, if there is no budget, it would be sufficent to get a few friends to check through the draft before sending for layout, and after the layout is done.

Producing a book is expensive, but is it worth it? The simple answer is, "Yes!" A book is a legacy that you can pass on to many generations after you are gone.

It is worth more than a tombstone (read this) which they hardly visit after 20 years, but your great grandchildren can still read your story.

Think about it -- what a legacy you would pass on to your descendants then! How I wish I had my grandparents' legacy in the form of a book that I can still read and pass on to my children.

And, if you are a busy person, you can still write a lot of books by engaging me to do the work for you.

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