Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Review: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers


Title: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print
Author: Renni Browne & Dave King
Publisher: William Morrow. Second Edition, 2004. 278 pages.

This is a step-by-step walk through the major areas in which fiction can go wrong, below the plot level (the book discusses things that affect plot, but they do not discuss the big plot issues of story arc, etc.). It includes checklists, exercises, and a list of top books for writers.

Each chapter of this book addresses a different area of concern in your manuscript, and includes lots of examples. At the end of each chapter there is a summary checklist of the things you might want to do/look for in your book, and a set of exercises to try. I failed to notice until I finished that there is an appendix with the authors' take on how those exercises might be completed (these are editing choices. There is no one right answer). 

As I read through the book, I marked things that I thought were particularly likely to be issues for me, but the fact is that somewhere in the editing process I'll want to revisit each chapter's checklist. It's not that this is the be-all and end-all of editing books, just that they hit the main points and they provide a layout that makes it easy to use it as a guide. 

The authors go out on a limb, and their examples include not only texts created to make the point and things presented in their workshops, but also classic works. And that was where I found myself not always in agreement. I get that they are saying that styles have changed, but it just felt weird. I also could NOT agree with one section, where they suggested using comma splices to make writing more contemporary and "natural," particularly in speech (but their examples were not all dialogue). Sorry, but while I'm okay with deliberate sentence fragments, for some reason the comma splices completely set my teeth on edge. I won't be using that technique!
This may not be the best writing book in the world, but it's good. I'm glad I responded to Jemima Pett's review and got a copy to add to my library. I look on all the writing books I've read as adding little bits to the skill set I bring to my writing. This one adds a pretty good bunch of skills, and presents them in a way that's easy to reference and use.
Full Disclosure: I checked Self-Editing for Fiction Writers out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 


  1. An honest review, not sure I'd be able to find those points like you being as I have never written anything like a book so would not know what I was looking for. Do they do a Writing for Dummy's

    1. I'm pretty sure that my "writing for dummies" was freshman Composition class at university. And the really effective one was the one I had to teach...

  2. lol Writing for Dummies. Maybe we should write that one, Rebecca!
    I'm going to have to look up comma splices now. :O

    1. There would be a project for us!

      Comma splices are just what I described: tacking together with commas two clauses that call for a period or semi-colon. I have no problem with the opposite (sentence fragments). Rather like them, in fact. But I can't make the comma splice read as anything but a mistake.


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