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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Paperback – April 13, 2004
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- ASIN : 0060545690
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; 2nd ed. edition (April 13, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780060545697
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #38,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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This is basically the standard advice you can find for free all over the web or on YouTube heavily larded with text from other author's books, so much so that it is really too tedious to read and IMO not worth the $12.95 for the kindle edition.
Just to be clear, this is not a book about developmental/substantive editing. Other than some tips about plot twists and repetitions, this book doesn’t address things like character arcs and holes in the story line. (And it doesn’t purport to.)
Through the illustrative examples and the helpful exercises, I learned a lot. As far as the exercises go, they were short and meaningful, not long and tedious. (They were actually kinda fun to do!)
I can’t think of any negatives. Five stars, money well-spent!
So, if you want to get considered by a publishing house, it's very valuable to have insight into how they evaluate manuscripts for publication. If you're going to publish yourself, then you want to minimize the cost of what an editor has to change, or if going without an editor, strengthen your writing so It enhances your story. The best way to be convinced of the value of the suggestions in this book, is to join a critique group and see how many of the submitted stories could be improved by following these ideas.
This was the first book I bought after coming to that realization, and it is still my go-to for quick-hit tips (and now reminders) on good editing practices. The authors do a great job of leading a novice writer through important editing concepts like "show don't tell", writing good dialogue and the proper use of "beats" to keep readers engaged. Each of the twelve chapters focuses on an attribute of good writing, and the core concepts are explained clearly and supported with multiple helpful examples. There are lots of nuggets of sage advice sprinkled throughout the book, but I found my favorite in chapter one: R.U.E or "resist the urge to explain".
As a one-time corporate learning professional, I appreciate the author's use of checklists and practice exercises at the end of each chapter to reinforce what you learned. The checklists are handy quick-references that I refer back to frequently, and the exercises incorporate relevant examples that make it easy for you to apply what you just read.
This book won't turn you into a professional editor over night, but it will help you improve the quality of your writing and give you a solid understanding of what professional editors look for. I used what I learned from this book to self-edit my first novel, and I was thrilled when the editor I hired told me that she thought I was a professional author with multiple books under my belt (I have one).
Most of us are limited in how much we can spend on our writing habit each month but, trust me, your investment in “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” will be money well-spent!
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Its only advice on self-editing is in the Introduction, wherein it advises putting the manuscript in a drawer for a while in order to look at it “with fresh eyes”. The Introduction makes a reasonable case for not paying an editor, when one might do it oneself - but this book was written by professional editors who don’t seem to have experience of editing their own work; at least, there are no examples of such, all the examples are of editing the work of others.
The 12 chapters duplicate advice for writers that one can find in decent books on writing, but not as well. After the Introduction, there’s nothing on self-editing. So the title is misleading. I’d ask for a refund but it’s too much of a faff to bother. The one star is because Amazon doesn't allow zero stars.
Self-editing includes many hazards as well as gaining distance (“fresh eyes”) such as reading, not what’s written, but what one expects to read; lacking the objectivity required to cut precious, favourite bits; getting tired of editing and stopping when it’s “good enough”; thinking the text is clear when to others, it’s not; missing major plot holes; editing away the passion that originally impassioned the writing; allowing the inner perfectionist to make the story perfectly inhuman, e.g. with proper grammar everywhere proper grammar don’t fit.
I usually say nothing about a book if I can’t say something nice. Well, all the pages are there, and I didn’t spot any grammar errors.
It’s beyond me how this book has made it into the second edition, still without living up to its misleading title.
Each chapter uses a similar format and is equally as good. Chapters cover, dialogue, interior monologue, using beats, and point of view, amongst others. I would say it covers all those areas which many writers find difficult.
The one thing I did find slightly jarring was the cartoons. I do not feel they added anything of value and the writing which accompanies them is difficult to read. The book is excellent without them.
Whilst more experienced writers may find they know much of the advice given in this book already, those newer to the craft will find it to be useful. I would suggest it is read before starting the first novel. Once the first draft is written then it should come into play to help shape and develop the novel. Overall, an excellent book which I can highly recommend
The authors are not trying to make you a better writer, they are trying to make you a saleable writer in today's climate. Many of the great works of the past would not have made it through the modern editorial process (they give many examples of this). Quite possibly, in the future, the rules may change again. But, for now, Browne and King teach you the process of getting your novel into a shape that an agent or a publisher's reader will want to look at twice.
This isn't just (or even mainly) about getting rid of adverbs and 'showing not telling', which you can find on any 'advice for authors' website. Browne and King give a balanced picture of all the areas that might trouble your prospective publisher. The chapter on Proportion is especially important, particularly since the subject is often overlooked.
Actually editing your book using the checklists presented here will be a fairly painful process for most writers. Browne and King do their best to get us over that with frequent examples from their own practise, as well as exercises where you can get your teeth into someone else's work before starting on your own.
You may disagree with some, or all, of the things they advise. However, this is not a book about becoming a great writer or producing great fiction, but about overcoming the common issues which generate the all-too-familiar "we're sorry, but we couldn't see this fitting with one of our lists" letters.
Strongly recommended if you really want to be published.
Of course things can and do get published that don’t follow these rules. Especially by “too big to edit” writers... but the authors are editors, so to an extent it doesn’t matter that other editors might be more lenient. These rules are probably going to apply to enough editors to make it worth any author’s while to integrate them.