Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Book Review

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

Second Edition by Renni Browne and Dave King

By Jean A. Schara
Jean A. Schara

This book helped me understand the big deal about adverbs and adjectives.  Maybe you've solved your adverb and adjective problem years ago but you may have other areas of concern.  What value might you find in this book?

The book contains twelve chapters.  In addition to Chapter 1, Show and Tell, you will find the following:

  • Characterization and Exposition

  • Point of View

  • Proportion

  • Dialogue Mechanics

  • See How It Sounds

  • Interior Monologue

  • Easy Beats

  • Breaking Up Is Easy to Do

  • Once Is Usually Enough

  • Sophistication

  • Voice

The authors have included an appropriate cartoon in each chapter, and the book's voice is comfortable and clear.  Appropriately, the authors chose Voice for the final chapter.  They offer no exercises for this chapter, because, as they say, there's no better way to become an individual than to work on your own manuscript.

As you can see from the chapter titles, each one discusses key trouble areas with writing, areas new writers may not even recognize as problems.  Experienced writers wrestle to keep these trouble areas under control.  Whether you are a new writer or an experienced one, you can easily turn to your problem area chapter.  If you have more than one problem area (it happens), you can address them sequentially or in any order you feel works best for you.

Each chapter focuses on a different element of the manuscript.  They discuss their subject matter with examples that need improvement, a slightly better version, and a more desirable version.  Explanations accompany the examples.  Then the authors provide a checklist followed by exercises for you to practice what you've learned.  You can easily compare your work to the examples and evaluate whether you have a problem or not--then, if you do, you can apply what you've learned to solve it.

Additionally, the book contains two appendices and an index.  The first appendix, thankfully, contains answers to the exercises.  The answer provided is not the only possible one, but the reader can see what one good answer might be.  The second appendix lists top books for writers, subdivided into books on craft, books on inspiration, and reference books.

You could benefit from this book at any stage in your writing, but it, as the title states, highlights the editing stage.  Use it when the first draft is complete and the work needs polishing.  After reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, I cut thousands of redundant words from my work in progress and did so with greater confidence than I might have before reading this book.

This book is flexible enough to be helpful in nearly any way you choose to employ it.  You could read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers straight through, you could read it and work the exercises, or you could skip around and do or not do the exercises.  At 279 pages in trade paperback size, it won't make a very good doorstop.  It cries out for you to use it and wear it out.  Make it a permanent resident of your handiest reference shelf.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers:  How to Edit Yourself into Print (Second Edition)

By Renni Browne and Dave King

ISBN:  0-06-054569-0