Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
Renni Browne, Renni Browne (Author)
Three example reviews from Amazon
At the time of writing this review, over 90% of reviewers had given this book a 4 or 5 star rating.
5 Stars: A lot of successful published authors could learn from this book. It’s written by two gifted editors who worked for major publishing houses and edited writers like Erica Jong and Sol Stein. It can’t give you what you don’t have in the way of ideas or talent, but it can make your writing much better and help you avoid the kinds of ‘errors’ (or weaknesses, shortcomings, and distractions where the author gets in the way of the story) that authors like Jane Smily, Le Carre,and Ruth Rendell DON’T make, but that some popular writers I’ve really enjoyed (like Mary Higgins Clark and Ridley Pearson) DO sometimes make. Applying Browne and King’s techniques has made my fiction so much stronger and given me answers to questions I’ve had for years about how to show characters’ emotions without ‘telling,’ how to handle attributions and ‘beats,’ and other points of craft that can be learned. This is a wonderfully written, succinct, even brilliant book from people who really know what they’re talking about.
3 Stars: Would The Great Gatsby have been a better novel if F. Scott Fitzgerald had not made “mistakes” like the ones given in this book? I doubt it. For me, Dave King and Renni Browne lost credibility when they began line editing a novel of that stature. Most readers agree the novel has an essence that goes beyond such mechanical issues. That’s what I meant at the beginning when I said the authors may have lost the forest for the trees.
1 Star: Ever had someone point out a “minor flaw” and then not been able to look past the flaw ever again? Leaving the cap off the toothpaste? A speaker repeating a common word? A certain dislike of a fashion trend? This book calls out all those subtle items in your writing and makes it impossible to ignore them. Are they really flaws? If you’re writing a book to sell to the authors, then I suppose so. This book is all about “fashion” (and two editors opinions on it) regarding writing. What makes a book “good”? The writing in it. What makes the writing “good”? Ask all the people who buy the book. It seems condescending to use examples from best sellers as “bad” writing–almost as if the authors think that writing a book people will love is bad. Pretty much every book on the best seller list (and books considered classics, too — Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Austen, Twain, Dickens) copiously break these rules. Even the writers they use as “good” examples regularly break these rules.
My Personal Opinion
This is a 5 star book for me. As a beginner, it makes you aware of so many pitfalls that you don’t even realize are pitfalls. The parts I found most useful were the discussions on dialog mechanics, interior monologue, and beats. The use of examples and the clear explanations make it feel like you are learning something with every page you read. The negative reviews focus on the fact that the authors often try to edit established authors. Of course, this was bound to upset a few people, but it does not detract from how important it is to have this book on your shelf.