10 Questions with Samarpita Sharma

I haven't known Samarpita for a long time. We've been connected on Twitter for a few months and then we met at a Blogchatter event in Gurgaon. With some people the connection is almost instant and this was one such case. Maybe it's the shared background of being a freelance writer…I don't like to explain why I'm drawn to some people. It just kills the magic of the chemistry.

A writer, editor and soon to be author; Samarpita wears many hats. She works on manuscripts as a beta reader, an editor, assists writers to develop and improve the story they are writing are among the few things she does. A treasure trove of information and a valuable resource to have in your corner if you are a writer.

When she's not writing, editing, proof-reading and doing manuscript critique; Samarpita is traveling, sampling food at eateries and of course writing about them. You can read about experiences as a traveler & foodie : http://wideeyedwanderer.in

I asked her 10 questions about her work and other things.

1.As a writer & editor who works with manuscripts, what are the common gaps you notice?

People don't appreciate the need for an editor, and I've noticed, this is not just in India. Or maybe a lot of them don't understand the need. Many people don't know that, unless you are going for traditional publishing with one of the leading publishers, their manuscripts might not be edited or if at all they are, they will not be edited well. And the fact that a poorly edited manuscript will simply not sell or retain readers' attention. This awareness is a major gap in the literary world.

2. Before you send your MS to an editor what does the writer need to bear in mind?

It is very important to move away from the manuscript and come back after some time - this time as a reader and read through it minutely. This is what we call the first edit of the manuscript, which needs to be done by the author. Correct grammar, fonts, spacings etc, make changes in the plot if you feel the need to, and run a check through the document yourself.

When handing over the document, remember that good work comes at a price. If you expect the editor to give your manuscript undivided attention and make it perfect, appreciate that it will come for a price. Please do not bargain if the editor is not open to negotiation and don't make your editor remind you for the instalments. You want professionalism around your manuscript, right? Your editor expects professionalism, too.

3. I hear a lot of writers say I don't need a beta reader. I have friends who read and will give me honest feedback. What would you say to that?

If your friends are giving you honest feedbacks of your manuscript, and loving everything you are writing - change your friends. Be it out of fear to offend the author, or because our mind is tuned to like everything our loved ones do, it is difficult for us to actually find flaws with things our own people do.

Also, a beta reader has a professional eye which the friend won't have. So, unless your friend is a professional beta reader, their opinion cannot be the final opinion.

4. I was in conversation with an author who is self-publishing his book. He said, I'm a professional editor, I don't need to hire an editor to run through my MS. What's your take on it?

I am a professional editor, as you know. I have recently started to write my own manuscript and I am in a dilemma wondering whom to send it to for editing! Like I am writing these answers, but they will need to be edited at the end of it. And since I am the writer as well, when I proof-read, there is a fair chance that I overlook something which another pair of eyes can spot.

When I write, I am a writer. Being an editor, I know more than others, the need of a good editor. And my manuscript would need one too. Saying I can edit what I write is not only arrogant, but foolish too.

5. Almost everyone you meet is writing a story nowadays! Why does everyone want to write a book?

I have been thinking about this since the longest time and could come to only two conclusions - a book brings fame, your name becomes known and you have something to talk (brag, in some cases) about in gatherings, and, everyone has a lot to say and not many people to listen, so a book makes for the best way to express. Also, with publishers mushrooming, there are more options to publish now than there was a decade ago. I have the liberty to write and publish my own book, instead of waiting for acceptance from publishers.

6. Almost every other book released in India is a romance or relationship story. would you agree with this? If yes, why is this the most popular genre?

I agree. Probably the easiest to relate to - for the authors as well as the readers. We have bestsellers which might not win literary awards but are best sellers because readers could identify with them. There are so many facets to the word relationship but most Indian novels seem to delve only into romance and are well-accepted too. Also, these are the easiest to read in my opinion - so one doesn't need to concentrate a lot in facts or sequence.

7. You've worked as a freelancer for many years, have you missed being part of a company? Do you wish to work full time?

I miss people, I won't deny. But then I remember that working full-time means meeting the same people every day and as a freelancer, I get to meet and know knew people frequently. I am also spared from office politics, wage gap and sexism. My earnings are also not limited to the number my organisation decides. So if I admit honestly, I can never go back to working full-time, willingly.

8. Do you work from home or you have an office space outside. What's your work routine?

I work from home. I have my work corner which has become my solace of late. Sitting down on my work chair every morning is an assurance that I have work, and a remembrance of the blessing called life. I try to stick to a routine, but on some days, it just doesn't happen. I usually work from 10 am till lunch time and take the afternoon off to read, paint or just relax. But sometimes work overflows on certain days, so I am back on my desk after lunch. Otherwise, I again work from 4 to 6 in the evening after which I take a break and get back to my desk from 8 to 11 pm.

9. Do you think freelance writing is a financially viable work option? What does one have to do to earn good/great money as a freelance writer

This is a little tricky. I took up freelance writing because I have had a background of writing and editing. I come from journalism and I don't need to tell you the advantages of it. For the uninitiated, someone who has been a deskie, like I have been, already knows industry-accepted styles of writing, correct editing and has the right contacts. I also had an existing portfolio to share with clients. So for me, it was a natural choice and has worked well so far.

On the other hand, many other freelancers I know have no background per se and I see them struggling. They take up bulk projects that pay less, trying to earn enough to compensate the salary they've let go off to take up freelancing. It's like jumping into the water and then learning to swim. That is a dicey situation, and makes freelancing difficult for many people. Here, survival of the fittest comes into play.

To make freelance writing work well for you - network. When I say network, I mean just that. Don't spam, don't cling. Create a good relationship with others in the industry and help others too, don't just wait to get help yourself. Never work without advance or paperwork. Freelance writing can be financially viable, but isn't always. So be smart. And work sincerely.

10. Name a book, any book that you wish you'd written. and would you have written it the way it is and would you change something about it. 

This could be an unpopular opinion but in Little Women, Laurie deserved better. Jo and he were never a romantic match, she was too much for him and would have always desired more. Maybe Beth, but definitely not Amy. I liked Amy least of the four March sisters and while the book is my absolute favourite, I hate that Laurie and Amy got together. He didn't have to marry one of the sisters. He didn't have to marry anyone at all. Laurie was too precious to end up with Amy, but that's just my opinion. I love the book so much, wish I had written it. But had I written it, Laurie would have had a different adulthood.