An Interview With Ori Redler: A True Renaissance Man
Ori Redler is an enigmatic character: he juggles between writing, editing, proofreading, translating and paginating – a true renaissance man. And if that’s not enough, he recently released a new book. We wanted to know how he’s able to do it all, so we sat down with him for a short interview.
Spoiler alert: it has to do with Mellel.
Hi Ori! For those of us who are joining the party just now, tell us in one sentence what you do here in Mellel.
A very good question! I’ve been asking this myself a lot too… Basically, I have two important tasks in Mellel. One is writing. That is, I write a lot: I write articles, I write essays, I edit books, I translate books, I layout books, I proofread books. Occasionally I even write a book of my own. This helps Mellel in one crucial respect: I am constantly in touch with what writers need, what writers are having trouble with, and what they would like to have in Mellel.
Which brings us to the other thing I do: Eyal, our CTO, and I do the ‘profiling’ and planning of new features, which includes deciding what to do next, imagine how it should work, conceptualize the UI (user interface), create mockups, and so on.
A bit more than a sentence, but we’ll forgive you, only this once. What made you come up with the idea for the application, and how did it come to life?
At the time — we’re talking 2001 — Mac OS X was a new thing. I was itching to move to this new OS fully, but couldn’t — I had no decent tool to write stuff with. So I asked Eyal, who was working at the time in France, to write me a little thingy to work with. He took up the challenge, and at the start of 2002, we had Mellel 1.0… It was a very basic tool. Still a free application. But there it was.
A little bird told me that you recently published a book. Could you tell us (in a nutshell, this time!) what it’s about?
Okay, okay, I promise. So, my book is called “What If?” and it’s a novel about an interesting — well — what-if: what if somewhere early on, when the state of Israel was all fresh and new, the Liberal party would have won the elections over the Labour party, thus changing the course of history for Israel, Palestine and so on. It’s very interesting, well, because I wrote it; It’s also very funny and full of lies and inventions and fictional characters and real events intertwined with falsehoods — just the way I like it.
I allow myself to speculate that you used Mellel to write the book. Which features do you believe make your life easier as an author?
Yes, I did. And I might add — I did it through and through: from the basic idea to the finished product (I’ve prepared the PDF for print right out of Mellel).
As for the tools I’ve used: I’m a guy who loves to work with a “finished product” — that is, I prepare the book in its entirety beforehand: preface, start pages, ToC page(s), additions at the end, chapters, and so on — and also work with the ‘finished product’ fonts, general page layout, headers, and footers. This helps me spot problems and make adjustments to the layout as I go along. Also, it’s much nicer to work this way. I can also create the Index as I go along, which is also useful at times. In that, the Auto-titles are indeed an essential tool, and so is the Page editing features — but the real heavy lifting is done at the paragraph and character style department. Those are the real essential tools.
Another essential tool is the Outline. I had dozens of characters and mini-storylines, various illustrations, and events. I’ve created a “character” Auto-title item for each person mentioned or discussed, and thus could refer to them each time I needed to add info or check info. Who’s this guy? When was he born? Where? — I just click his name in the characters sections of the Outline, and there he is.
Another essential took was Find and Replace. Ease of use is essential here. For example, following the book editor (never edit your own book!) I often needed to change a character’s name, features or storyline. You need to be able to quickly spot every occurrence of the character and do that. Also, I sometimes needed to apply certain rules, like the spelling of terms, copy-proof edicts, and so on. Find Actions are essential for that.
I might add that I wrote the book even before the Story feature came along…
Which features you think can be timesaving and effective also for others who are debating whether to write their next book with Mellel?
Writing a book is all about controlling the narrative. Everything needs to be under control, all the time. In that, I think the number one time savers are the Styles, especially where they intersect with Auto-title. You usually use no more than 3-4 styles (body, headings, header, and footer) and you need them to all follow the rules, and change consistently throughout when you make changes. And you do. You always do.
The Outline is also an essential tool to keep things in order, especially as the book gets longer and more complicated. It’s essential to have this visual feedback and the ability to jump from one place to the other. Cross-references are also well deserving time savers. In my latest book, I had dozens of references at the end of the book — I would not have been able to do that in any sensible way without the live updating of those. I’m now editing a book with thousands of footnotes and endnotes — having the ability to add bits and immediately conform them to my set standards via the footnotes style saved me a lot of time.
Yet another gossipy bird told me that apart from being an author, you’re also the chief editor of two book publishing houses. How does Mellel help you with all that?
Yeah, I am. In my experience — being an editor in chief of a Magazine earlier on — the most crucial element of editing is standardizing. That is, you get texts from various sources: writers, translators, editors, copy editors, publisher notes on the copy, author notes on the copy. You need to have a means by which to check that everything stays up to the standards you set.
In that, the most crucial elements are a good style guide (for yourself and for the ‘regulars’, mainly translators and editors) and an equally good Find Set. Or, rather, Find Sets. More than anything else, this helps me keep things in order; for example, avoid common mistakes, implement certain policy re:commas, hyphens, etc. and most importantly: keep linguistic and grammatical check on everything that needs checking. The human eye is simply not built to spot and process 400-500 issues at a time with every text — But Find Sets do that easily and quickly (for more information on Find Sets, go here).
Okay Ori, thanks a lot for your time! Now we know how you have so much time on your hands.
You betcha. If you want to know also how to save time and effort and avoid frustration, check out our new version here. You’ll be able to learn the app step-by-step, thus adjusting to it quickly; the time it’ll save you, later on, is totally worth it!