Monday, September 6, 2010

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

I submitted a book review for the Oregon Writers Colony newsletter today and thought I'd share it with you.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print

By Renni Browne and Dave King (Second edition/soft cover, 280 pp., 2004, HarperCollins)
ISBN: 978-0-06-054569-7
Review by Jill Kelly, PhD

As a 15-year veteran of freelance editing and writing coaching, I’m always on the lookout for books that will help my clients both write better and self-edit better. Most of the people I work with aren’t wealthy and the services of a good editor aren’t cheap, so the more they can do themselves, the happier they are.

Browne and King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a book I consistently recommend. Here’s why:

• The writing is clear and helpful. It’s more like a conversation with knowledgeable friends on a subject you both love: good writing. There’s nothing didactic about it, none of that pompous “I know and you don’t” style that often appears in writing manuals, especially those by academics.

• The topics and examples are helpful for writers at all levels. Whether you’re working on the fourth book in a published series or figuring out how to self-edit for the first time, the ideas here can help you improve your writing. I learn something every time I read it.

• The book is thorough. It covers all the main skills of fiction writing and how to improve them. I especially like their chapters on interior monologue and using physical beats to distinguish speakers. When you combine that thoroughness with the thoughtful and provocative nature of the exercises and the extensive answers in the back, the book becomes a mini-course in good writing.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers does assume a solid knowledge of basic grammar, parts of speech, and standard punctuation, so it will not cure your comma errors or dangling participles. But again the tone is kind and clear, and writing terms like dialog, analogy, point of view, etc. get explained in context. And while this book is aimed at fiction writers, much of the information and the exercises will prove useful to those writing prose poems, memoir, and non-fiction. So while it isn’t a substitute for hands-on work with a good developmental or text editor, it can take you a long way.

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