Friday, April 03, 2009

Rainforest Tears : The Website

Rainforest Tears author Paul Leslie Smith has created one of the best author sites for his book that I've seen ... anywhere on the web. (Go visit and tell me if it isn't!) You can read a synopsis, find out about Paul and how he wrote the book, and learn something about the background. There are also useful links if you want to uncover more of the history behind the fiction.

There is apparently a whizzier international version of the site in the pipeline (no pun intended) that opens up with a Google Earth type fly in to Sarawak from Europe since a lot of people know nothing of Sarawak.

The book is now being promoted by Marshall Cavendish Singapore which Paul feels is much more proactive than the KL counterpart and will soon appear on, while Penguin Australia is also ready to take it. Paul is looking for a UK publisher, but says he is not sure how to go about finding one. (If anyone is passing by looking for a highly publishable manuscript, let me put you in touch with Paul.)

He is working on the sequel now :
Plot scratched out on paper, starting to fill in the gaps. Looking at my hopes for R. Tears at a similar, embryonic stage I am more hopeful for the sequel.


Yusuf Martin said...

looks beautiful

glenda larke said...

Nice website, I agree, beautifully, beautifully done. Even better is how easy and quick it is to navigate.

But I get put off the moment I see that the extract hasn't been copy edited. Punctuation is atrocious at a very elementary level, and there are spelling mistakes. I sincerely hope the pubished book is not like that!!

What a shame to spoil such a website with stuff like that!

glenda larke said...

Forget what I said about a copy editor. He needs an editor! Why, or why, do people assume that because they can use a computer they know how to write?? This could have been something really special if he had taken the time and had the patience to get a little professional help. Why spend all that time and effort on research, and then not spend a little time learning how not to write purple prose and the pitfalls of too many adverbs?

I am hoping that the more obvious errors occurring on the website book extracts don't appear in the printed book. If they do, it breaks my heart.

Or am I being too harsh here?

Chet said...


You're not being harsh at all. In fact, you're the very person we need to tell us!

Both proofreading and editing are not very highly regarded in Malaysia. I've been trying to "break" into this part of the publishing business for almost two years now. One publisher said writers have no budget for proofreading. But it's not the writer who should take care of this, but the publisher. A publisher who accepts a manuscript for publication under its banner must take the responsibility to make sure that it's well-edited and also proofread before it's out in the market. They also have to make sure the right manuscript is sent for printing! I'll never forget the famous "horror" story of one Malaysian book that was published and its writer received feedback of the numerous typos in it. After checking with the publisher, it was discovered that an un-proofread version of the manuscript had been sent for printing!

Self-published writers have a higher risk of typos in their books because they don't have the budget to hire someone and often rely on family and friends to proofread. But Rainforest Tears is published (or is it just promoted?) by Marshall Cavendish Singapore which should've taken care of the editing and proofreading, too.

Fortunately, there are at least two Malaysian publishers (both starting with the letter "M" - yes, Malaysia Boleh!) who are taking the responsibility for this end of the business. I have been fortunate to work with both, and look forward to a continued working relationship with them!

So, go ahead, keep highlighting this much neglected area of the publishing business, especially in Malaysia.

Thanks, Glenda.

And Sharon - sorry for this long comment.

bibliobibuli said...

hadn't looked at the extract actually and it's good that you have both pointed this out to me - will definitely will get paul onto this.

i know Paul has had a lot of problems with his publishers here, Marshall Cavendish. he knew about the errors and bad editing which is one of the reasons why now he has gone to Marshall Cavendish Singapore who promised a re-edit. (the other reason was that they were much more proactive about promoting the book)

frankly it is very very hard if not impossible to find a decent literary editor in this part of the world. There is a good book here. I was gripped by the extracts he read for us at seksan's and my friend Barry couldn't put the book down ... but he did say it was badly overwritten. the big problem is how does an author here get the expert help he needs? there's a void, a lacuna. and maybe now it is our biggest problem.

if i were giving advice to a first time novelist here i would tell them to pay for the services of a freelance editor with experience and they will only find such a service overseas. PAY FOR IT!!!!!!!

many authors in the UK and US find them having to pay for editing services out of their own pockets even if their book is accepted for publication. the really lucky ones get a good in-house editor.

i don't know what has happened to Marshall Cavendish Malaysia recently but another author sent me a copy of this book to blog about. i really don't think i can ... or not without destroying the poor guy's dreams! the text is frequently vague, sometimes i have no idea what he is trying to say, and there are appalling grammar errors all over the place ... sometimes several in one paragraph.

i would strongly recommend that anyone who gets signed up by them takes full responsibility for the editing and gets it done professionally outside. this publisher seemed at one point to be doing really well and now it is clear that they have absolutely no standard whatsoever. i do hope someone from the company reads this because they frankly need a big boot up the bum!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

No matter how good you are, you need a decent editor and that should be done before you send it to a publisher otherwise you risk a rejection or worse you have to live with your results, as has been posted above.

Finding such a person for free is difficult (and unfair to them, so don't ask, offer to pay; that's what I did!), but there are services who advertise all over the world. I found one from Malaysia in the US when I first started writing over 20 years ago, then I hired an American editor who used to live in Penang. We met and began exchanging our work for free. Then I gladly paid her to rip up my stories (already published several times over)and all three novels (and some screenplays). Cost me a small fortune, but the insights I gained!

We all have blind spots to our own writing, and not just carelessness and grammar mistakes. Sometimes just plain wordiness! Better to find your errors yourself, purple prose and all, before an agent or a publisher if you want to break out of this region. It's time to get serious and take your writing seriously.

Praise is great and so is being published, but what it always come down to if the work is to survive is quality. How good is it really? And not just by Malaysian standards or even Asian standards but by international standards.

Thanks Glenda for taking the blinders off. Sharon has been hinting at this for a long time, but no one seems to take it seriously. Too many writers are too eager to get published (and some local publishers seem pretty eager to publish, too -- this was the bane of Singapore publishers awhile back) and make a name for themselves, but what kind of name is that...careless and sloppy for both writer and publisher? Not good...

Why do all that hard work and research for a great story only to
shoot yourself in the foot in your rush to get a book out? Maybe I'm overkill to write a novel from 12 to 21 drafts but at least I know the quality will be there. I'm applying what I've learned from working with good editors (and my own editing for 25 years) and editing my student's work and sometimes others.

If you refuse to spend money on a decent editor then find a writer you can exchange your work with. I used to do a lot of that, too, and it helped both ways, in getting my work edited and my editing their work. Often it's easier to find errors in other's work than in your own even though the errors have been there all along! Blind spots!

Let's clean up our act and get serious! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Writers of fiction should not rush to get published. Get your manuscript edited as many rounds as possible before sending it to a publisher.

Anonymous said...

Of course, there are the notorious so-called authors who insist on not being edited at all and give hell to the editor who just want to do his or her job.

Amir Muhammad said...

Wonderful site!
I read the extracts and although there are a few mistakes, I did learn a new term: 'elliptical breasts.' So that's all right then.

Chet said...

Interesting article about editing.

5 editor’s secrets to help you write like a pro

Paul Smith said...

Hi Guys, Thanks for the comments. As Sharon said, editing can be difficult in this part of the world. I did ask Marshall Cavendish to help but got no reply. As an engineer I have no illusions over my punctuation prowess. As a first time author though I had hoped for more help on this front. People checking Sharons blog will likely be the more able in the literary world. Other folk, who like me have no clue as to the difference between a colon and a semi colon, do seem to enjoy the blog for what it is - a background to an interesting book. If anybody does have a contact to editing services I would appreciate the help before the site goes international. Thanks again Sharon for taking the time to help a hopeful grammatical disaster area!

Glenda Larke said...

Paul, being a writer IS about knowing how to use a comma or a semi-colon. And lots of other nuts and bolts too. If you don't take the trouble to learn the basics, how can you call yourself a writer?

(You are going to hate me by the time you finished reading this. I'm a writer, and believe me, I know how much it hurts to have someone says uncomplimentary stuff about my work. And yet I believe every writer worth their salt has at some stage in their career heard some harsh - and honest - criticism of their book from a disinterested person, and has been wise enough to listen.)

In most other countries in the world you would not have had your book accepted for publication in its present state. (I am assuming the extracts from the text online are an accurate representation of what will be published.) I find it hard to believe that Penguin Oz has signed a contract for the book in its present state. In most countries, including Australia, the readership would rip you to pieces if it did go to press as is.

The publisher has not done you or your reading public a service.

Yes, you have a marvellous story to tell - I don't doubt that for a minute. It's a story I would love to read. You have the story, you have the background to do it, you have the research done. What you don't have - YET - is the mechanics to do it.

You need to understand punctuation, pacing, plotting and story arc, character-building, tension, over-use of adjectives and adverbs, a thousand and one things. Have you read three or four books on "how to write a novel" by people you have done it successfully? Go on line and look up twenty (yes, 20) author sites by successful writers who have written similar novels and read what they say about the mechanics of novel-writing.

You need to work with a professional editor step by step while they dissect your writing and tell you where you can improve and how. It doesn't come cheap.

The cheaper way is to do the reading yourself and practise, practise, practise. That takes years. (The accepted half-serious "rule" is that it takes 10 years of practice and 1 million words to produce a good writer.) Ask yourself if you want just to be published any old how, or if you want to be a writer with a viable career.

A tennis player doesn't get to Wimbleton in their first year on the circuit.

I do know a professional editor here in Selangor, if you are interested, although she is pretty busy at the moment.

Sorry to be so harsh. But, frankly, when you put yourself out there, you have to expect some flak to fly your way - comes with the job. Prepare yourself.

Anonymous said...

Good advice Glenda! I find it a weak excuse to say that "I'm an engineer, I don't know punctuation" !!!

That's like saying, "I'm a writer, I don't know how to add 2+2."

- Poppadumdum

Damyanti said...

I agree with Glenda, story telling is only half the battle, one as to learn the craft--be it grammar, punctuation, or simple clarity of language.

And having learned those, one still needs a good editor.

Paul Smith said...

Hi Glenda. I appreciate your advice, though as a full time professional engineer i simply have nowhere near the time to go off and learn this stuff - even though I realise I should! As a hobby writer I am not too bothered about dotted tee's and crossed i's, but understand that it is important to get it right eventually. If you could please pass me the details ( of your friends contacts I will drop her a line. With respect to 'putting myself out there', then that was not the intent of the website. What happened in and around Miri during the course of WWII was astounding, yet hardly anybody knows. I did look at other booky-booky type websites but decided they were remarkably 'flat' and tedious to non-author types. My website may be loaded with grammatical errors but I still believe that it provides a vehicle of interest to many types of people - not everybody wants perfect punctuation substituting genuine interest. So am I happy with the site? Well yes, because though it aint yet perfect, it provides a wider appeal to many people and though being different is difficult in this day and age, does provide a more unique format than many others - did you like the Tarzan picture in the Author tab? Hopefully by the time we go international the details will be fixed. Take it easy Glenda and if you are in KL let me know and I will treat you to a coffee over a chat.

Anonymous said...

Just read the extracts. Will NOT be buying the book!

"not everybody wants perfect punctuation substituting genuine interest" - sorry, but the errors - why haven't they been corrected after all the comments? - and the bad writing really killed all my genuine interest.

Glenda Larke said...

Er, Paul, you don't seriously think that writers don't hold down other jobs, do you?

I would hazard a guess - 98% of first time published fiction writers under 50 hold fulltime jobs. There is not much money in writing, and there is none at all until you have written your first book. None.

And they slave over their writing and the polishing of their book while doing all the other things that ordinary people do - raising families, worrying about their mortgage, working fulltime and keeping their spouse reasonably happy while they do it. They make time to learn their trade at the same time.

Most fiction writers NEVER give up their full-time job - they don't earn enough. I have 10 books published or contracted for, and I am only just getting to the stage where I might be able to stand on my own two feet financially without working elsewhere or relying on my husband to pick up the slack, and that's mainly because I am beginning to sell in translation as well.

And I didn't mean that I thought you put the website up to put yourself out there; obviously it is for the book, not you (and it is brilliant), but nonetheless, the result of ANY website is that you suddenly become public property. Same when you publish a book. Whether you like it or not.

Just thank you lucky stars you aren't a pop singer...which is a whole lot worse! *g*

Am meeting my friend for coffee. Will ask about the editing.

Anonymous said...

What I find truly ironic is that, on the Rainforest Tears blogsite it says "Flawlessly Written by PLS"...

BorneoExpatWriter said...

I agree with Glenda 100%. You don't have to be a fanatic about punctuation but you should know the basics to make sure that your writing is grammatically correct. For Paul's case, it's even his first language, so no excuse (for my writing students this is often their third or fourth language!)

Be as it may, when I first moved to Malaysia to write, after having published several articles in the US, several management newsletters, a complete draft of novel, dozens of short stories, I got to the point when I realized that I really didn't know much about grammar and punctuation beyond what I learned in school and university and mostly forgot.

So I decided I'd better know this stuff, so while working full time, already pushing 30, I got myself a good secondhand grammar book, Grammar for Journalists and worked my way through it, outlined the chapters, did all the exercises, again and again until I knew why my answers were right or wrong. I did it for a half hour every day for months! I didn't have to do this, but if I was going to call myself a writer, I figured I'd better know this stuff. Then I began teaching grammar and style (Elements of Style, I highly recommend!)), so I know my stuff.

Still, I hired an editor to go through my stuff as I mentioned earlier, after I got it to the point when I thought it was really good, worthy of entering it into contests and showing it to agents. Then after that, I still go through it, draft after draft, to improve my writing style.

Do the work, learn your craft, clean up your writing. There's nothing more embarrassing for a writer who has published a book, for people to look at it and say, you call yourself a writer? Don't you know the difference between a colon and semi-colon? By the way, do you know how to tie your own shoes; otherwise you're going to be tripping over those laces, as well as your punctuation and prose for the rest of your natural writing life.

At the very least know the basics. Otherwise, Paul, you're embarrassing all those engineers who do know their grammar! Don't take this stuff lightly or readers will be taking you and your book lightly. They'll be thinking, what do you expect from an engineer? He's not a real writer! Personally, I think you’re a lot better than that!

I mean this in a positive way, for all of us so-called writers. If we can't bother to learn this stuff, why should anyone be bothered to read our work? Show some respect to your readers and perhaps, they'll not only respect you, but recommend you to all of their friends, and that indeed is a great compliment.

Enjoying this Sharon. Great stuff, helping and learning from each other.

Anonymous said...

How does one account for the mistakes in 'Lovers and Strangers Revisted (MPH)', then, and in 'I am Muslim' (it is stated on the acknowledgments page that Sharon Bakar is one of the editors)?

BorneoExpatWriter said...

There are acceptable variations in grammar and punctuation, even among various style manuals, also between American, British etc etc. So is it a mistake? Editors and the writers they work with often compromise, if necessary. Do you split infinitives or not? Some say definitely not, others say, it's acceptable. Same with ending a sentence with a preposition or starting a sentence with "and". We're not splitting hairs over grammar rules here. There are websites that do that and they don't even agree on what are the definitive grammar rules (and why they're even definitive), especially for punctuation. Some writers like to use dashes. Some do not. But there are basic rules that we should all know and there is also the writer's style, rules that can be broken because you know the rules and it's for a reason, like using sentence fragments. If it's an obvious error, and it wasn't introduced by a well meaning proofreader, then I accept the blame (I am the writer) and I'll pass it on to MPH. Thanks for pointing it out.

None of us are experts, and no one is claiming to be. I occasionally trip over my own shoe laces, too.
I've also had well meaning proof readers introduce mistakes! One editor with Heinneman Asia kept changing my word 'hovel' to 'hotel' in two proofs. I finally wrote on it, don't touch this word! Sometimes errors are introduced while accidentally deleting words while rearranging, or correcting other stuff. It happens. I've rarely read a book by a major publisher when I didn't come across a grammar or punctuation mistake that somehow slipped through the cracks. Again, it happens, and they're inevitably caught for the second printing.

Usually, the more eyes on it, the less mistakes slip through. Another reason to work with your own editor and back to the original cooment by Glenda. But if we're finding mistakes on most pages, that's inexcusable!

bibliobibuli said...

i proofread 'i am muslim" and then the publisher - bless his cotton socks - completely ignored my corrections on the manuscript till the second edition. dina went through the roof when she saw what had happened.

i'm an okayish proofreader but don't really have the focus one needs to catch all the errors. i do try to help out friends and manage to catch most i think. i reckon Chet is excellent (and can be hired!)

Glenda Larke said...

One other general point that all authors are told repeatedly - a reader likes to be drawn into the story, immersed. Entertained.

And anything that throws the reader out of that immersion is
A Bad Thing and causes said reader to throw the book across the room and swear they'll never buy your books again.

Too many spelling errors, grammatical mistakes or typos can do it. Making factual mistakes can do it. Stupid plot holes can do it. Unrealistic behaviour on the part of characters can do it.

I prefer to keep my readers as happy as possible in this respect.

Chet said...

I think we're a small enough community and we know one another well enough to help out with proofreading before a book goes to print. Proofreading would require more than one pair of eyes, I think, and possibly one "outsider" who never saw the manuscript before to read it through once before it goes to print.

Mr Robert Raymer aka BorneoExpatWriter probably does not know it, but I was a "final" reader for his Lovers and Strangers Revisited published by MPH. And even then, some errors slipped through, but I'm not sure about that since I haven't read the printed version.

We're only human and fallible, and need one another's help. I would gladly help again. Who knows? I might need a favour one day for you guys to look through my writing.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but do writers in Malaysia not get to see the final copy before it goes to print? What kind of contracts do they get?


Anonymous said...

Writers must always go through the final proofs before they go into print to make last-minute changes. I know of some writers who insist on not going through them!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Oh, you went through it after Janet and I completed our back and forth process. Thanks!

Jessica Lee said...

Rubbish in, rubbish out. If a manuscript is so bad, there is only so much an editor can do with it. I mean lets say they were 3000 punctuation errors and 2500 were caught. That leaves a whopping 500 left! See, I've written this like an engineer would so everyone can understand it.

One can't call oneself a writer without understanding something as essential as punctuation. I am curious to see the unedited draft of this book because I am so perplexed as to how one can construct sentences without knowing punctuation. This is a book we are talking about! Not an email message! Shocking!

Paul Smith said...

Hi Jessica. No problem to meet up (if you are in KL!) and I can show you my final Word format drafts. I happen to think that they are better than the post-edited result, but I bowed to the superior editing skills of a professional editor as the manuscript went to and fro. As a general indicator of the standard of the book you may wish to go to the Praise section of the website to see what the Malaysian/Singapore press had to say. (Nobody seems to have got this far through the website...)As I say, no problem to meet up if you are curious. Drop me a line to Look fwd to hearing from you. Regards - Paul S.

bibliobibuli said...

Paul - hi and hope you are surviving all this! a bit of an ordeal by fire, i'd say.

you have a unique story but the presentation of it is vitally important. i think what comes across from this discussion is that you badly need that re-edit and you need the best literary editor you can find to do it.

Paul Smith said...

Hi Sharon - no worries. The vast majority of the comments are positive in nature and I presume bloggers have learnt to ignore those who hurl derision down a one way street behind a cloak of anonimity.
Glenda Larke has been wonderful and put me in touch with a friend of hers who is the real deal. We are meeting on Monday.
As you are aware Sharon, even I was doubtful of the editing in my book. As a hobby writer sucked up into the world of professional publishers I at first went along with those who knew. Towards the end of the editing the relationship was strained. Though I wanted to do another round, being in a hospital bed and on crutches for 3 months was always going to make that tough.
I appreciate the good advice on offer here - lessons painfully learned or laboriously studied. I take my hat off to those that have made the effort, but its not something that I want to do. I do imagination, not punctuation. I write to relax and never expected to become published - only a few friends knew I was writing and it was them that prodded me fwd. I do work quite hard and prefer to spend my time doing stuff I enjoy - nursing my old Merc back to health..... I do recognise, and accept, my failings. Hopefully Glenda's friend can help me to whip rainforest Tears into shape for Australia.
I realise that I have left myself open to criticism but I am still proud of my book. How many people lock themselves in a bedroom and produce a first book of 555 pages/230,000 words (it was 300,000!) that, despite the faults, gets published internationally? From the press write ups on my website (they are all there - no bad ones were dismissed) and comments I have had from friends and relative strangers alike I know that my book has an interesting story.
Will I do things differently in the sequel? Yes, but only once I have enjoyed writing it how I enjoy writing will I call Glenda's pal for round 2!
Thanks to you Sharon for blogging me, thanks to Glenda and the others who contributed so constructively. And (never start a sentence with a preposition?) KEEP, WRITING!

Friends to all.

Paul S.

PS - Sharon, I am off to Bintulu with work for a few months soon. Once back I will ask you to put a note out to the usuals amongst you and we can have a BBQ at my place so I can get to meet people properly.

Jessica Lee said...

Would love to meet, Paul, but thanks to the nature of my job I live out in the boondocks

I just reread most of the comments here and I may have missed something but has anyone here actually read the book. Are the extracts on the website exactly as they appear in print. I find it really hard to believe that a major publisher would think that the possessive of Daddy is Daddies! (Just an example. Heh heh, sounds like a world where polyandry is practised.) Really looks to me like another case of the wrong CD going to print.

bibliobibuli said...

Paul - you are a sweetheart for taking criticism so positively. yes, let's have that barbecue!

Paul Smith said...

Hi Jessica, thanks for taking the time to reply. Quick answer - no, I dont think any of the guys contributing to the blog here have read the book - no problem.
I have no doubt that the punctuation is imperfect. It worried me greatly when nobody in the editing group spoke English to each other! The plot, however, thickens. During the writing of R. Tears I sourced many out of print books from a specialist in England. The guy who ran the shop had been to Brunei and had a strong interest in my venture. Over time an email friendship has developed. At Xmas he had a friend in S'pore pick up a copy as he travelled home for the break. My friend (who proof reads for certain associations) has just surprised me by sending me the results of his reading. Seven pages, many errors, mostly minor punctuation gripes. Of interest to me here though was that from the sections lifted for use in the Appetisers tab he made not a single comment! Alamak - what to do-lah?

Best Regards Jessica

Your even more confused and bewildered friend, Paul S.