Review Summary: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

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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.

Background Reading (Reading is Learning) Part 2

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I have read some more books about the craft of fiction writing that I wanted to share with you.

  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • How Fiction Works
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel Volume II
  • Beginnings, Middles, and Ends (Elements of Fiction)
  • The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells
  • Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide

I will give you more information about these in future posts.

Right now, the time has come to get writing! I have begun to outline my storyline and characters with Snowflake Pro. Things are going well, and as I have been outlining more story ideas are popping into my head. I hope to have the full synopsis completed by the end of the month.

Software that helps

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I have decided that I am an outliner. I enjoy creating my storyline, creating my characters, and developing my story world before I start writing. I admire the seat of the pants style writers, but I know I would end up in a terrible mess.

I decided that computer software would surely help me plan a story, so I tried a few: Dramatica, Storybook, Storybase, Ywriter5, and Snowflake Pro.

In the end I have fallen for Snowflake. Whatever you think of Randy Ingermason (Is he an internet marketer or a writing expert?) Snowflake Pro really does suit a person who likes to plan. Probably because I read “Fiction Writing for Dummies” as my first book, I feel comfortable with the way the software guides you through the creation process.

I will be an edit-as-you-go kind of guy and this software allows me to easily go back and add my changes, amend my theme, and deepen my characters. I had to buy it off the rack though as there is no demo.

I will talk about this software a bit more in a later post and relate how it has worked with my novel.

Background Reading (Reading is Learning)

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Writing is a craft. This is not telling you anything new. A craft can be learned. I am great believer in this. I decided to surround myself with a as many books on the subject as I could. I found all of these titles to have some value.

  • Writing Fiction for Dummies
  • Self-editing for Fiction Writers
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Description and Setting (Write Great Fiction)
  • Dialogue (Write Great Fiction)
  • Plot and Structure (Write Great Fiction)
  • Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy (Volume One)
  • Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy (Volume Two)
  • Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy (Volume Three)
  • Plot (The Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • The Fiction Writers Toolkit

Reading these books was invaluable and more than a couple of them will stay within arms reach for my first few years of writing. Over the next two weeks, I will talk about each book individually and tell you what I felt I gained from each book.

Welcome

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Hello and welcome to my little writing corner on the internet desk. My particular fix is a good fantasy story. Like many others, I feel that the time has come to attempt to become an author myself. With that larger dream in mind, I am happy to announce that today I have become a writer. What you will read on this blog is my writing ideas and my story ideas. I will talk about the software I use and books that I read as well as the occasional book review. The essence of this blog is my fantastic trip towards being a fantasy author. I hope what I write here will be of some interest to you.