My 2009 novel ‘Half Discovered Wings’ and its 2015 e-book re-release will be removed from sale Friday 2nd November.
Dear current and future clients,
I will be unavailable for work between 26th April and 6th May 2018.
I will have some limited access to my emails, so please feel free to send any queries or quote requests that you might like me to look at upon my return.
This will not affect any current, ongoing projects.
With kind regards,
The Internet has been over this before. In April, Marvel released the trailer for its next blockbuster superhero film, ‘Doctor Strange’, a story about an arrogant surgeon who, after his hands being irreperably damaged in an accident, learns the error of his ways and becomes a powerful scorcerer. Stephen Strange finds his spiritual awakening in Tibet, with the help of a Tibetal mystic known as the Ancient One, and thereafter protects the world from all forms of mystic badness as the Sorcerer Supreme.
Marvel’s first trailer brought accusations of white-washing after it appeared to show that the huge studio, now owned by Disney, has scrubbed all mention of Tibet from the story. In the film, Tibet has become Nepal and the Ancient One is now a white person. The reason seems obvious: to appease the government of the People’s Republic of China, a country that represents a huge cinemagoing audience and has the world’s most notorious wall of censorship, forbidding any mention of politically-sensitive situations like Tibet.
I won’t re-tread old ground too much, but link to some articles here:
If you didn’t know, Tibet is technically part of China – ever since China invaded and stomped all over Tibet in the 1950s, and has been crushing it underfoot ever since. Before I get accused of exaggeration, let the world be reminded of an independant ICJ Human Rights Report into the brutalities of the 1950-51 invasion of Tibet, which led to the exile of the Tibetan government, its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and over 100,000 desperate citizens. The illegal and well-guarded path over the freezing Himalayas has killed many fleeing Tibetans. They were and purportedly are still escaping beatings, brainwashing (thabzing), wrongful arrests and killings, torture, mutilation, dismemberment, disembowelling, vivisection and crucifixion (yes, you read that correctly). Following the 1959 uprising, those shouting “Long live the Dalai Lama” were reported to have their tongues torn out with meathooks.
Children have been spirited away from villages to be indoctrinated at Chinese schools. Han Chinese have been urged/bribed to move into the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, displacing the native Tibetans an attempt at cultural erasure. Thousands of Buddhist monasteries were looted and destroyed (purportedly 8 of 6,000 remaining, as Potemkin tourist attractions), and celibate Buddhist monks were forced to have sex and marry one another. Nomads with generations of nomadic existence in their blood were told to stay put. Communism brought famine to the near-barren lanscape of the Tibetan plateau.
In Tibet, people are punished just for keeping in touch with their exiled relatives, even though this is now official legal. Self immolators who protest the enslavement of Tibet are thrown, still burning, into trucks and disappear, and may take a day to die. During the 2008 Tibetan uprising, which failed, bodies of protestors were piled high in the courtyards of monasteries. 1.5 million Tibetans have died in defence of their human rights. I’d heard stories, but the facts I found this year when researching my latest novel about Buddhism and Tibet made me sick to my stomach.
But Marvel wants to make money off its latest film, so it continues to pander to the Chinese film requirements. Censors in China only approve 34 foreign films per year, and some censorship requires that a film contains a scene set in China, has the casting of Chinese actors, has Chinese investors, or shows “positive Chinese messages”. Marvel already got into bed with Chinese film studios for ‘Iron Man 3’ to avoid those requirements (and, incidentally, adding additional scenes in which genius Chinese surgeons fix a superhero’s heart problems, adding Chinese product placement, and changing the Chinese villain The Mandarin to a British actor ‘playing’ a villain with a false American accent). You might have noticed a rash of films the last few years with scenes set in China or in which China saves the day, such as Looper (2012), Red Dawn (2012), Gravity (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), and The Martian (2015). Why? Because this doubles box office profits from China, as well as allows the film to be shown in the first place. Forget politics, there’s dough to be made.
Weirdly, in the latest comic book issue of Doctor Strange, Marvel has confirmed the Tibetan origin:
What’s going on there? Appeasement to fans? A small sacrifice, considering the films are making far, far more money than any comic book run ever could. Not good enough, Marvel.
I don’t know about you guys, but kowtowing to a tyrannical government for profit in light of genocide and cultural suppression sounds pretty uncool to me. If you’ve read my previous travel posts you’ll know that I have a lot of love for historical and present day China, but I despise its government. I have a great love of Marvel, whose comics and characters have brought me some of my greatest joys in life, but I can’t in good conscience see a film I’ve always hoped to be made, with actors I adore. I was hoping that the newly-released second trailer might correct some assumptions – but sadly not. And already people seem to have forgotten about the controversy and are all set to pre-order their tickets. I don’t blame them – but I would blame myself.
(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/29LnaH1) One of the greatest phrases I have heard in recent times is, ‘If a computer can take over your job – it should’. Makes you think doesn’t it? For some people it is worrying because they are not entirely sure that they are good at what they do, but they are sure […]
Occasionally, clients ask me about how to provide a tip for a job well done. This makes me extremely flattered and grateful. The best bonus is a smashing testimonial for this website (read them here), but if you’d like to palm me a little extra, I’ve now made it super easy.
If you’d like to help feed/clothe a starving writer/editor, there is now my fancy new ‘Support’ page (here) where you can drop a little something into my tip jar with just a few clicks.
A huge thanks again to those lovely people who suggested this!
Unfortunately I continue to have Skype problems. Until the next version of Skype is released, I will only be reachable via e-mail or this website. Please see the Contact page for more details.
As part of my short series on editorial processes, I will be looking at proofreading, line-editing and copy-editing to give some insight onto the features that distinguish them from one another. Last month I looked at proofreading. This article covers a more substantive approach, line-editing.
What is line-editing?
Line-editing, unsurprisingly, works at the ‘line level’ of your text. Often confused with copy-editing (the subject of a future post), this is not a more intensive proofread, but a genuine deep edit that examines the detail of your writing to generally enhance your work. A line-editor will help with clumsy wording and sentence structure, improving your clarity and flow, and fact-checking. It could involve the moving, cutting or adding of whole paragraphs (or, if you really need it, chapters). This is generally what most laypeople think of as “editing”.
A deeper look
A proofreader looks for errors such as typos or obvious blunders. A copy-editor will work on things like grammar and consistency of language and regional spelling (i.e. UK or US English). A line-editor’s job usually comes before both of these things, and works hard to draw out the best from every line in your text. It could be considered “heavy editing” and, at the end of the process, you may be looking at a completely different piece of writing to the one you started with.
Rewording of sentences will help get rid of unnecessary passive voice, extensive adverbs (which Stephen King described as paving ‘the road to hell’) repeated words and phrases, tautology, cliché, overwriting, and mixed or broken metaphors and similes. There’s also an element of fact-checking and improving on the writer’s general voice and style.
Voice is something that I would prefer not to interfere with as an editor, but sometimes it’s necessary. Take a novel. If the writer’s personal voice is too strong, it can draw the reader out of the moment and spoil the illusion that all good fiction strives for. Charlotte Brontë is often lauded for breaking this illusion in Jayne Eyre (“Reader, I married him.”) and good editors have been undoing the damage she caused ever since! Voice should not be confused with style, which is (read “should be”) unique to every writer and carries an element of their voice within it.
Tone is also examined, to make sure that it’s appropriate. In an autobiography I would expect the writer’s voice, style and tone to naturally be perfectly appropriate, since it’s their story after all, but even here tone can distract or confuse the reader. It wouldn’t do to make jokes throughout the chapter of your heartbreaking divorce, for example, but the very nature of reliving such an upsetting episode could interfere with the writer’s sense of what’s appropriate for the scene. Likewise, a children’s picture book with a deadly serious tone probably wouldn’t go down so well (“I must protest, Sam-I-Am. I most sincerely would prefer not to eat your green eggs and ham.”).
I generally consider my job as a line-editor to scrub out anything that holds the text back and, if possible, also elevate the text to something closer to the writer’s original vision for their work, helping with vocabulary, sentence structure and imagery. I would also work (in the case of fiction) on characterisation, plotting and originality.
In terms of an ongoing editing process, I would expect line-editing to come first. Once the writer has written their first draft and given it a once- (or twice-) over and can no longer see how it can be improved, the line-editor gets a go. You could, potentially, end up with something completely different by the time they’ve finished, but it should be improved. The reason this would come before copy-editing is because there’s no use having a copy-editor scour your novel for problems with grammar, typos and other minute issues if the line-editor is going to cut that pointless dream sequence or rewrite all your dialogue afterwards.
Do I really need a line-editor?
How do I answer this? YES … Probably.
If you’ve finished working on a blog post or some SEO content for a website, there’s a case for saying that deep editing is unlikely to be a major advantage. Generally your proofreader, if they’re feeling generous, will point out any glaring errors whilst correcting your typos.However, if English isn’t your first language or if you’re a new hand at writing, an editor will really help you to develop simply by showing you where you might be going wrong (ideally with some helpful annotations to justify their changes and suggestions).
If you’re writing an essay, you’d be better off with a copy-editor than a proofreader so that you can have your grammar examined (not all proofreaders consider grammar part of their purview), and a line-editor may be of use there too. Most substantive edits will be a mixture of line-editing and copy-editing anyway, so it’s important to talk with your editor to discuss exactly what you expect from the process. Many fiction writers, when looking for an editor, are seeking a line-editor who will work on their copy too.
The people who I know who have undergone a third-party editing process have always been very relieved that they did!
…learn from your editor!
Welcome to The STP Literary Service website,
the official site of freelance writer and editor David Brookes.
On this site you can check out his ghostwriting and editorial services, view his portfolio and feedback, and follow his regular blog (below) for news about his latest literary publications and new services for writers of all kinds.
The STP Literary Service
I had to be up at 6:30 for a medical the University wanted me to take for insurance purposes. After finally getting to sleep at 3:30, I was roused by the numerous and loud alarms I had set for myself to avoid oversleeping again.
The medical was interesting. I was very anxious that the health centre would turn out to be some dodgy back-alley affair, but thankfully it took place at an international health centre. The impressive building and wide open interiors were sparkling clean. It made me jealous on behalf of my shithole apartment. The usual queueless rabble crowded the front desk and my guide did the appropriate shoving and waving to get me seen to. I watched the people behind the desk: one man in a lab coat stood up from his computer, opened an official looking locker, and took out an encrusted saucepan to drink from. Soup, hopefully.
Sleep-deprived and anxious, I was led through a battery of tests. The first was a dreaded blood sample. I was horrified to see that I would have to sit on a stool and stick my arm through a window in a pane of glass for the nurse. I have an embarrassing habit of going grey and falling over when I have blood taken. I warned my guide, went through the painless sampling, and draped myself over two chairs to wait for the tunnel vision and cold chills to dissipate. The other tests seemed odd or excessive: an x-ray (alarming), an ultrasound on my stomach (“He should work out more,” the doctor told my guide), blood pressure and some kind of body water/conduction test with electrodes.
By the time I was dropped back off at the University, it was only 09:30. I was starved and shaky, so resorted to McDonalds again, my oasis of Westerness. I was still experiencing what I assumed was culture shock. Nevertheless, I had plenty of time before a meeting with the Assistant Director of Studies at 17:00, so I went home for a nap.
Unfortunately the meeting was not a success. I had already discovered that the school was not part of the University, but a private school renting office space. I’d already had clues that they wanted me to teach IT as well as English, which wasn’t what I was there fore. Before the meeting I was taken to a room to sign the contracts. It seems typical that the employment contracts school are required to send to the government are different to the contracts that the employer-employee have. “Which one is legally binding?” I asked. “They both are,” was the spurious reply.
The government’s version of the contract omitted a schedule of amendments, which included all my negotiated changes as well as my salary. The government caps the limit of a foreign teacher’s salary, presumably to keep China self reliant – at half my agreed wage. It’s to my benefit, but the dishonesty was off-putting. Apparently I was also to be put on a three month probation at a reduced wage. Payday is the 10th of each month. “So on 10th of December, I’ll be paid for six weeks?” I asked. “No, just four,” was the reply. So was I to work for free? The questions was to go to the accountant, and meanwhile I was to sign…
The meeting took things a step further. It transpired that now I was to be hired as an IT teacher, not to teach English. The responsibility was pawned off on me by my predecessor, who hadn’t wanted it either. I had also been promised that I would teach adults, but all the students I’d seen so far were undergraduates.
I asked the ADOS to reconsider the changes to the agreement. She would take it to the Director, but any compromise seemed unlikely.
I had gotten in touch with another teacher who had worked with the school. He had nothing but nightmares to report: refusal of personal leave, lengthy enforced overtime, sly games with his housing agreement, being screamed at by the Chinese staff.
I’d done plenty of research about the pitfalls of accepting teaching jobs in China, and had rejected a dozen offers before settling for what I thought had been a trustworthy company, a University school. Now, I’d learned that I’d been lied to about the nature of the school, its students, the job and the salary.
These practical things are easy to describe. Harder to expound upon are the nebulous emotions and thoughts that fueled my decision to walk away from the job. I’d felt ill at ease – at best – since I arrived.
Two fortuitous things happened that same day. The first was that my lost luggage had been found, abandoned at Heathrow by Virgin Atlantic. It was battered and there were some damaged contents, but nothing serious. I tipped the delivery guy generously for reuniting me with 80% of my worldly possessions. The second thing was that I’d been given my passport back by the school.
I booked a night at a hostel in Xi’an’s tourist-friendly old town, then started looking for flights home.
This week comedian and writer Jerry Seinfeld won a Clio award, intended to “reward innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design and communication”. I don’t know why he won the award (indeed, he didn’t seem to know either), and I don’t really care: advertising and marketing are aspects of the modern consumerist world that make me feel ill if I think about them for too long.
“I love advertising because I love lying.”
Seinfeld comes close to illustrating my sentiment when it comes to advertising, and did this whilst on stage accepting his Clio (named after the Greek goddess and muse, not the Renault). With the trophy in hand, he tore into the world of advertising:
He goes on to support materialism with such subtle irony that most of the audience, presumably made up of execs there hoping to win one of these awards for themselves, applauds and cheers apparently in a delighted state of ignorance. Jerry also talks about the 1991 Clio debacle, in which the presenting company suffered so poorly from mismanagement that it had run itself into the ground and its employees had walked out, leaving the award show to be run by the caterer and a few drunken volunteers. It doesn’t support what I’m saying here, but it’s a grimly amusing anecdote that you can read about on the Wiki page.
I’m writing this blog not because I thought Seinfeld was particularly funny or insightful – in fact, accepting an award only to ridicule its sponsors is a bit of a dick move, when he could have simply refused – but having worked in the world of corporate marketing and sales I hope it might go some way towards explaining why I chose to abandon Western business and take up teaching in the East.
“In advertising everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I actually get the product being advertised … We all believe that ‘Hey, maybe this one won’t stink!’ We are happy in that moment between the commercial and the purchase.”
Advertising has become inherently dishonest and manipulative. It doesn’t need to be this way: an ad in the paper advertising a car with its specs and price is something that you still see from time to time. This is all an advert needs, and the product will speak for itself. But as businesses produce shoddier products, their advertising must become proportionately deceptive in order to make it seem appealing. I spent over a year writing sales material for a global company and felt unclean the entire time.
“I think spending your lives trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy.”
I spent most of my down-time avoiding television. I don’t listen to radio, either. Advertisements bother me to the extent that I don’t even go to where they might appear. I’m tired of seeing TV ads with misleading charts and statistics, where spurious data is manipulated to appear legitimate. Anyone who looks closely can see through these ruses, but many do not look, and others accept that deception is a part of advertising.
I look forward to the day when the only marketing I see is in incomprehensible Chinese hieroglyphs.