- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 2nd edition (May 5, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582975086
- ISBN-13: 978-1582975085
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) 2nd Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
But every once in awhile a writing instruction book comes down the pike which not only delivers techniques you can immediately apply to your own fiction writing, but is actually entertaining to read too. James Scott Bell's Revision & Self-Editing is that kind of book.
Writers worth their salt are always looking to improve their craft. We want each plot to be stronger, each character deeper, each book or story to be better than the last. We're desperate to write a novel that'll keep our readers up `til dawn. But what do we do when we churn out a draft that is, shall we say, junk? What if we know something's not right, but we have no clue how to fix it?
Jim Bell to the rescue. In his previous book Plot & Structure he taught us how to create compelling plots. Now in Revision and Self-Editing he shows us "techniques for transforming our first drafts into a finished novel". When asked who the book was for, Jim told me, "Any beginner who wants to learn the essentials of the craft. And experienced writers, who can pick up some extra tips that work and a systematic approach to revision that will make their books better."
Part I: Self-Editing, gives us an overview of various fiction techniques and exercises. Here Bell touches on the building blocks of novel writing like point of view; show vs. tell and beginnings, middles and ends. It's here in this section readers of Plot & Structure might notice some re-cap. But even seasoned novelists need to be reminded of things like Bell's LOCK system (the four essentials of strong narrative) and what makes great dialogue.
Part II is where we heat up and get down to the nitty gritty of resuscitating our manuscripts. And let's face it--almost every first draft we write is going to need help. As Bell says, "Submitting a novel without rewriting is like playing ice hockey naked. You're just not equipped to put your best, um, face on things. And sooner rather than later a well-placed puck is going to hit you where it hurts most. That puck is the editor's or agent's built-in prejudice against weak material."
Broken down into easy read and digest sections, Bell shows us how to overcome obstacles like procrastination and what to do before you revise. He gives common fixes for everything from setting & description to dialogue and theme. For example, if your opening isn't working he suggests revving up our opening line or weeding out too much backstory, exposition and cast. Your middle sagging? Try strengthening your exposition, adding a subplot, raising the stakes, trimming, or adding research.
If you've ever attended one of Jim's writing classes, you know he doesn't just preach at you, he shows you examples of what works in the real world. Revision & Self-Editing is chock full of examples from successful, published novels and even movies. There are tidbits of advice from other published novelists like Athol Dickson and Terri Blackstock. Exercises after each chapter help you retain and apply what you've learned (Jim provides answers at the back of the book.)
Speaking of writing conferences, that's what reading this book felt like--attending a break-out session presented by a skilled wordsmith who knows of what he speaks. Like a caring English Professor, Jim hovers over your shoulder pointing out the problems and dishing out the fixes. He pulls no punches, and you can tell he wants those who read this book to succeed. With lots of sweat, burning desire, and these techniques in your back pocket, you truly can.
When Plot & Structure released I said, "If you can only buy one writing book, buy this one." Well, it's time to make space on your shelves for one more. Revision & Self-Editing deserves it.
--Reviewed by C.J. Darlington for TitleTrakk.com
This book would be great for someone who doesn't know how to structure a novel. If you're looking for a basic guide to constructing a story, this is fine. I preferred "Plot & Structure," but that's a personal choice. But if you want to revise and edit a book you've already written, you're just not going to find much in the way of help here. Disappointing.
While this book might be helpful to younger, less experienced writers, the books, plays and films he chooses as examples, i.e. The Maltese Falcon, The Odd Couple, and The Searchers , might not be familiar or relevant to that audience.
The book's main strength comes from Bell's easy, conversational style to make his brief, yet obvious, points.
The book's weakness is its title. It's misleading, and readers are sure to be disappointed.
If you're looking for a book about revision, pass on this one. This book misses its mark by not going far enough into the self-editing and revision process. Instead, it quickly offers obvious and basic advice in how to write a novel. And if you're looking for a book on crafting a novel, others work better.