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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print 2 Sub Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 407 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060545697
ISBN-10: 0060545690
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  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A superb tutorial for anyone wanting to learn from pros how to polish fiction writing with panache.""--Library Journal"

From the Back Cover

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories. Renni Browne and Dave King are two of the country's best-known independent editors. In their years as president and senior editor of The Editorial Department, they have edited the work of many writers - including bestselling authors - before the manuscripts went out to agents or publishers. Over half the manuscripts worked on to completion eventually got published, and over half that number were first novels. In this book Browne and King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own manuscript, in order to bring your manuscript to its fullest potential. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, interior monologue and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert fiction editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited. Every chapter contains hands-on exercises to help you apply these techniques to your own work. And illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist George Booth keep everything in perspective.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 2 Sub edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060545690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060545697
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (407 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark J. Fowler VINE VOICE on August 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You wouldn't be here if you weren't interested in writing. Perhaps, like me, you also wouldn't be here unless you had also experienced some degree of professional rejection of the manuscript you thought was full of promise.

I sent my as-yet-unpublished novel to a literary agent. I wasn't surprised to not be accepted - there are plenty of famous stories of rejection of everyone from Tom Clancy to Stephen King - but I was encouraged to receive a page of constructive criticism from the agent. Among his suggestions: Read Browne and King's "Self-Editing". I did and immediately the glaring deficiencies of my manuscript stood out as plainly as a Naked Cowboy in Times Square. I took these words to heart and reworked the entire manuscript. I have no idea if the manuscript will find a professional home - but I am certain it is better, much better, than it was.
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This is a verbatim handout in a clinic the authors taught in 1990 in New York. Each item on the following self-editing checklist is a deal-breaker for your blockbuster. Your manuscript likely has many of them. Buy this essential book; understand what the checklist items refer to, and start self-editing.

1) SHOW(ing) AND TELL(ing): As you re-read your work, watch for places where you tell your readers about personality traits, situations, or emotions, rather than showing them through actions and events.

2) DIALOGUE DIRECTIVES: Watch like a hawk for places where you've explained your dialog. Watch for "ly" adverbs and verbs for speech other than "said." And rethink your paragraphing.

3) SEE HOW IT SOUNDS: Read a passage of dialogue, narration, or description aloud and listen for the unconscious changes.

4) EASY BEATS: Beware of including either beats that describe dialogue or so many beats that the dialogue is choppy.

5) INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: As with beats, make sure your interior monologue isn't obtrusive or actually an explanation in disguise. Also, dispense with stage directions whenever possible.

6) SOPHISTICATION: Watch for "as" and "-ing" constructions and change the sentences that don't actually require these constructions.

7) BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO: Break up lengthy sections of narration or descriptions with frequent paragraphs, or with dialogue, or even with the occasional one or two line paragraph.

8) POINT OF VIEW: Watch for places where you change point of view in the middle of a scene. If the change is necessary, insert a linespace and start a new scene.

9) ONCE IS USUALLY ENOUGH: Look for places in which you've accomplished essentially the same thing twice.
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Renni Browne and Dave King have written a better than average book on craft for fiction writers. It covers the following topics:

1. Showing not telling
2. Characterization & exposition
3. Point of view
4. Proportion
5. Dialog mechanics
6. How the text sounds
7. Interior monologue
8. Beats (character actions between bits of dialog)
9. Sentence/paragraph/chapter breaks
10. Repetition
11. Sophisticated versus amateur style
12. Voice

They include passages from works of famous writers as well as of clients of their own editing service in showing how to address errors. They also provide exercises, and in the appendix, suggested answers to those exercises. Excellent.
The book is certainly worth reading, but I am concerned they missed the forest for the trees in certain places. The best example of my concern is in the first chapter on showing not telling. The authors take issue with the following line from F. Scott Fiztgerald's The Great Gatsby:

The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.

The "problem" is the ly-adverb "confidentially". The authors suggest it would be stronger to eliminate this adverb explaining the girls' emotion, and instead write the following:

The two girls and Jordan leaned their heads together.

Their rule is to avoid using adverbs to tell the reader which emotions the characters are experiencing, and instead convey their emotion by dialog and actions. This is a perfectly reasonable rule, and I agree it should be followed, most of the time. In the above example however, the rewritten version doesn't quite convey what Fitzgerald intended. There could be many reasons for the girls to have leaned their heads together.
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Format: Paperback
I would have to say that this book should be a must for all aspiring authors. Even, dare I say, to many established authors who make many of the mistakes that this book talks about. And I don't say this because I blindly follow what this book says. Nay, I have read books and I have been annoyed or bothered by their unrealistic dialogue, their page long speeches over and over again, using too much description, and finally the author patronizing the reader by trying to force feed everything. That is why I found this book to be amazing, because what I had already been shaking my head at was found in this book to be big no-nos.

That being said I was amazed while reading. There were some chapters that were rather basic, such as chapter 1, "Show and Tell", but then there were other chapters that I know, as an amateur writer, will greatly help my already written work as well anything in the future. Such chapters as "Proportion", "Dialogue Mechanics" and "Breaking Up Is Easy To Do" are all great chapters.

I would most definitely recommend this book to all beginning writers, even to those already established just to refresh their editing styles. A quick read that is well worth it.

5 stars.
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