subtitled: How to edit yourself into print
One of the most helpful books I’ve read. Distils each of the main issues into easily assimilated chapters, with good ‘before and after’ examples, checklists, and exercises. I suspect some editors could do with reading it too.
That’s what I said for my Goodreads review. So what did I use when I was editing The Perihelix?
I already had a list from my editor – mainly to do with consistency of spelling things like OK, and ensuring my punctuation and emphasis was consistent throughout. There are still times when some thoughts are in italics and some not. I maintain that it depends whether it is active thought (I have telepaths in the book) or passive cogitation. Internal dialogue, in fact.
I learnt about internal dialogue, narrative summary and dialogue. What? I hear you say, you’ve written eight books without knowing that? Yes, I knew them, and used them, but I didn’t know the labels. This has happened to me a lot in my life. It’s a big hindrance at interviews, let me tell you.
I learnt about repetition, and my tendency to do it. I tell my readers what’s going on and then I tell them what I’ve told them. Business habits die hard, you know. What’s good practice in business may not be good in books. I did leave some of the recaps in, because I find it helps if you want to take people off in another direction. Is there any logic to their change of heart? Yes, and recapping helps me find it, so I hope it helps you too. But not with emotions. Let the reader do some work. Say it once.
It explained to me much more clearly than anything else I’d read, about show and tell, and I hope I fixed a lot of that. I searched on every -ly in the book and changed, rewrote or protected it. Mostly I rewrote. And then I picked on probably, only, definitely and really, and sorted them all out. Some onlys remain, because there are only so many synonyms for it when you are dealing with unique scientific events.
Look, I don’t make the rules, I only work out whether I want to break them or not. I wonder how many times I used look before I evaluated them? Now you’ll browse through the book, checking each one, gazing into space to come up with an alternative, glancing sidelong at your neighbour as you do so. And then drop your eyes to the desk before raising them and catching my eye. Sometimes look is better!
The best thing about the book was learning I get some things right. Hallelujah!
But no, the best thing about this book is that they use it themselves, and tell you where they’ve changed the second edition as a result.
This book was worth every penny my niece spent on it for my Christmas present. Put it on your wish list too – you may be surprised!
3 thoughts on “Book Review | Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King”
I bought a copy after reading your GR review 🙂 Now it’s time to read it, as I’ve just finished a draft.
Of course, we also have to remember the Pirate Code — they’re not really rules, more like guidelines 😉
Thanks for this heads up – I think I will get it. Every little bit helps!
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