- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Subsequent 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: 501 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print Subsequent Edition
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"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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“I wanted something to help me with substantive editing. Rather than a guide for self-editing this turned out to be a prescription for writing.” He paused. “Most of the authors’ suggestions are for rewriting according to their own preferences in writing. They actually object to matters of style, not composition itself. Granted, some are useful; others, not so much.”
When he asked to explain himself, Burt cited issues that prevented him from following most of the prescriptions. First, they all reminded him of the “linguist” who recommended that writers avoid the use of Latinate words and prefer Anglo Saxon vocabulary, without realizing that her statement included four words of Latin origin. Then came the examples of inadequate writing by commercial writers such as Robert Ludlum.
“This prompts the question: Why does anyone write? If not to share by seeling their work, they should just keep a diary. What of Ludlum’s dislike of “said” in dialogue? Readers don’t seem to care. The same thing goes for purists who abhor ending a sentence with a preposition instead of using inflexible phrases that sound peculiar to the average reader. I’d be more afraid of spelling errors and faulty sequencing of events than of so called ‘fragmentary sentences,’ that can be used so efficaciously.”
Burt went on to point out that people who prescribe usually do so from the vantage point of their own preferences, not necessarily because writers need the straitjacket of rules that may not adapt to their own objectives. As a rule, people who tell others how to write fiction usually have not written any themselves.
“Take point of view, for example,” stated Burt. “What about cinematographic perspective, that John Sandford uses so effectively? Oh, wait, another commercial writer!”
I chuckled, but had to agree.
The book is an easy read. Not ponderous nor pretentious. Just straightforward advice filled with real-world examples - from client submissions they've received as editors, to famous works, to gems from their editing workshops. The authors have a clear voice: upbeat, and to-the-point. It's accessible to every writer: from the seasoned and published writer with the English degree, to the brand newbie.
Each chapter closes with a point-by-point review of what's been covered followed by exercises that you can edit yourself (then "check your work" against their answers in the back of the book).
You may not agree with every stylistic choice the authors suggest, but, they are professionals, and if your goal is getting your book published, then this book will certainly bring you closer to that goal.
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.
The authors provide a great checklist before sending out a MS. One’s book may still need an editor or even copyeditor, but at least my MS will be cleaner, more professional. The real editor will have less to do and since many editors today no longer really edit, one will be ahead of the game.