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Old 11-27-2017, 08:35 AM   #1
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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Those that can't write ... read about it.

My current project seems to be stalled at the moment. Not writer's block, just too much else (computer work) going on to concentrate. So I've taken up Hitch's recommendation (well, reminder, it has been on my list of some time) and started reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King (2nd edition).

I'm impressed. There is not a lot in there that I have not read before, in one form or another, but here the concepts are presented together very clearly with examples and exercises. (The cartoons aren't very effective for me, in the paperback edition I purchased some of them are barely legible, but you can't have everything.) While little of it is completely new, they do identify some important distinctions that you rarely see mentioned elsewhere (eg: adverbs that are props for your dialogue versus those that modify the verb "said", as in "he said softly"). I find these distinctions really help to make the concepts clearer, because you get to see what is bad about the poor choices as a contrast against those things that (in their proper place) may actually add value.

One thing I particularly like is that they make it clear early on that these aren't hard rules. They're guidelines, things to watch out for and try to balance. Which isn't to say that some things are not strongly recommended, but there is little of the unwarranted exaggeration you see on so many blogs and articles around the 'net.

And one aspect that I did not really expect: it's remarkably easy to read. I've only been at it for a day and I'm already two-thirds through. No, I'm not working my way through all the exercises this time around, I expect to be reading it again (and again ...), especially now that I've found it such an easy read and one that I can relate to very well.

Reading about it not going to make you good at it, you have to practice, which is where their exercises come in. But, even after that, having a reference like this to remind you of what to look for when reviewing your own work has got to be a good thing. It is an entirely practical and effective guide.

Not that the authors of this book need it (they have so many other endorsements), but I heartily recommend this to all aspiring writers. You should have this book!


Note: This is a book about self-editing, concentrating mostly on copy-editing rather than structural editing. There is some discussion of point-of-view, proportion and voice, and I tend to think of these as structural editing decisions even though the correction of mistakes in these areas often takes place during copy-editing. This is not a book about spelling, grammar or proof-reading. We have discussed tricks to help with proof-reading here on MR before.


I have a 300 page second draft sitting here waiting for me, so I have something to practise on ... just as soon as those people who pay me stop harassing me for more work. (Please don't tell them I said that, as inconvenient as work can be, it's nice not going hungry.) Or maybe I've got enough head space for editing, even if I don't have it for writing. It's worth a shot.


Disclaimer (for HarryT ): Just because this book can help you to self-edit does not mean you can avoid a professional editor. The better you can make your work before it goes to the editor the more effective your editor can be. And, the better you understand the concepts the more easily you can understand what your editor is trying to tell you.
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Old 11-27-2017, 11:35 AM   #2
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Work now: play next year.
It is that time of year when one is either making money or spending it because if you are making it, there is no time to shop.

Sounds like a great book. Don't tell her I said this but Hitch knows her stuff.
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Old 11-27-2017, 10:02 PM   #3
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I seem to have been saying "work now, play later" for a few years now ... but before that I had several dry years - which is how my first books got out. Such is life.

I finished my first read through last night. There was more directed at structural editing toward the end (particularly the "Once is usually enough" chapter), and I found the "Sophistication" chapter to be especially interesting. It discussed aspects I've not seen talked about much elsewhere, and pertinent to some problems I've already been wrestling with in my own writing.
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Old 12-01-2017, 09:23 AM   #4
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I bought this book a few weeks ago, but haven't yet got round to reading it. Thanks for the review gmw.
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Old 12-02-2017, 11:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Those that can't write ... read about it.

My current project seems to be stalled at the moment. Not writer's block, just too much else (computer work) going on to concentrate. So I've taken up Hitch's recommendation (well, reminder, it has been on my list of some time) and started reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King (2nd edition).
Glad to be of service.

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I'm impressed. There is not a lot in there that I have not read before, in one form or another, but here the concepts are presented together very clearly with examples and exercises. (The cartoons aren't very effective for me, in the paperback edition I purchased some of them are barely legible, but you can't have everything.) While little of it is completely new, they do identify some important distinctions that you rarely see mentioned elsewhere (eg: adverbs that are props for your dialogue versus those that modify the verb "said", as in "he said softly"). I find these distinctions really help to make the concepts clearer, because you get to see what is bad about the poor choices as a contrast against those things that (in their proper place) may actually add value.
I think that SEFW is the most approachable--and therefore, the most useful--of the "how to" books. I don't even remember the old cartoons; my paper copy is pretty damn worn, and I have the book on my Kindle now, for easy search/reference.

Quote:
One thing I particularly like is that they make it clear early on that these aren't hard rules. They're guidelines, things to watch out for and try to balance. Which isn't to say that some things are not strongly recommended, but there is little of the unwarranted exaggeration you see on so many blogs and articles around the 'net.
IME, trying to find pearls of writing wisdom on blogs is a fool's game. Not saying that there aren't ANY good blogs, but...

Quote:
And one aspect that I did not really expect: it's remarkably easy to read. I've only been at it for a day and I'm already two-thirds through. No, I'm not working my way through all the exercises this time around, I expect to be reading it again (and again ...), especially now that I've found it such an easy read and one that I can relate to very well.
Glad you liked it. I think it's great.

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Originally Posted by Cinisajoy View Post

Sounds like a great book. Don't tell her I said this but Hitch knows her stuff.
Thanks, Cin. ;-) I won't tell a soul.


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Old 12-03-2017, 03:04 AM   #6
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[...] I think that SEFW is the most approachable--and therefore, the most useful--of the "how to" books.
I think this is what I found most surprising. I'm used to reading articles (and some books) where the authors say really stupid things (some try to dig themselves back out later, others don't seem to notice they are in a hole). I typically end up so frustrated with what I'm reading that I possibly miss anything useful they have had to say. That didn't happen with this book.

I'm about a third of the way through a third pass over my manuscript (waiting on the tax office to get back to me about some stuff, so paid work is on hold for a few days). I've managed to drop about 1500 words so far - once is usually enough - but, more importantly, I feel more confident in my review, as if I am seeing things more clearly. Some passages are getting reworked in ways that I feel better about, rather than the usual, dubious, "is that really an improvement?" sensation.

That is not to claim that I will see all the faults in my own work as a result of reading this - that's asking too much of any book/advice - but it has definitely given me a better grasp of what I'm looking for. ... I guess the real test is yet to come.
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Old 04-13-2018, 10:37 AM   #7
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I'm intrigued. Is an abstract of it available for free anywhere? I don't have a lot of space so buying a book I won't get to read doesn't look exciting for me. I used this [snippage--URL removed] decent online editing service, its review[/URL] looked fine by me. But of course it's time and money.
Assuming this isn't an advertisement--(Gosh, why would I think that?) as this is a first post--you can always look at the LITB at Amazon, which would give you plenty to go on.

It'd be a cold day in hell before I'd use some College Essay Editing/Review service about which you know NOTHING. Nothing whatsoever about the credentials of the people doing the writing/editing/reviewing. The headshots of the people sans bio look like licensed stock images, IMO.

I'm PARTICULARLY wild about the "Awards" page, which is entitled "Here we have collected the best services," and is full of Lorem Ipsum. And read this GEM from the blog article, "How Many Words is a 5 Page Paper And Other Facts About Academic Writing". Pay particular attention to my italicized portion:

Quote:
How Many Words is a 5 Page Paper And Other Facts About Academic Writing

In academic writing, precision is very important. The ability to follow instructions is part of meeting the standards of academia. Everything from how many paragraphs in a 5 page essay or how many paragraphs is 5 pages is important. For example if the answer to how many paragraphs is five pages is 5, that means your instructor wants you to write a five paragraph essay that spans five pages. The answer to the question how many paragraphs is 5 pages double spaced is the same, however your word count will be smaller.
Oh, YEAH, baby, I want these bozos to edit MY work. They're asking you, to pay them, to edit your work, and they can't even take five minutes, to make sure that their own website is error-free? They're putting up canned articles, WITH TYPOS, that they actually obviously got from some $5-an-article-pulp-writer? 5 paragraphs that span 5 pages, as well? Gimme a break!

What a load of Horse dung.

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Old 04-13-2018, 07:00 PM   #8
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Years ago, I read a short article on self editing that used highlighters (one colour for adverbs, another for adjectives etc etc). I realised by the third highlighter that I didn't know what all (most) of the parts of speech meant/are (I'm a casualty of the sixties idea that kids didn't need to know stuff like that. Stupid sixties hippies).

Despite my handicap of not knowing what the heck a "dependent clause" was (I'm assuming something Christmas related) I ended up with a lot of colours and no freaking idea what it all meant.

On the bright side, I do now have a nice bunch of coloured highlighters.

So now, I either send the "finished" product to someone who went to a private school (sans hippies) or I leave the piece for a month or so and then read it out loud to the dog. Anything that sounds weird to the dog goes.
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Old 04-13-2018, 08:46 PM   #9
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It was exciting to see some better than usual quality of spam, actually context sensitive ... or was that coincidence? Some spam is written a bit like horoscopes, the wording can mean lots of different things depending on the context.

skb, that's a curious variation of "the dog ate my homework": "Sorry, ma'am, the dog edited by book." On the plus side, going off Hitch's comments, it would be cheaper and probably more consistent than using that essay editing site.
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Old 09-08-2018, 10:47 PM   #10
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I've decided that searching for an editor is equivalent to the search for the Holy Grail. I wish there was a Yelp site that honestly graded the editors.

After 4k my editor said I needed a copy editor. Shame on me for not asking all the right questions.
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Old 09-10-2018, 05:14 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ZGottlieb View Post
I've decided that searching for an editor is equivalent to the search for the Holy Grail. I wish there was a Yelp site that honestly graded the editors.

After 4k my editor said I needed a copy editor. Shame on me for not asking all the right questions.
Have you tried a place like http://fiverr.com? I've seen how some have gone there to seek someone to make a book cover for them so it stands to reason there may be people there willing to edit a manuscript as well.
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Old 09-10-2018, 09:35 AM   #12
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For some things its a matter of suck-it-and-see. Even if/when you hear of quality editors, it still comes down to whether you can find someone you can work with. I suggest that you trial editors with short stories to you can see how you get on. That way the cost and commitment is not too great, but there is still real benefit from the work.
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:20 AM   #13
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Quote:
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I've decided that searching for an editor is equivalent to the search for the Holy Grail. I wish there was a Yelp site that honestly graded the editors.

After 4k my editor said I needed a copy editor. Shame on me for not asking all the right questions.
I realize that budget is always a consideration, but have you tried the EFA? Editorial Freelancers' Association? They have hundreds, if not thousands, of qualified people.

"Back in the old days," freelance editors and proofers, etc., all had backgrounds from various magazines, publishing houses and so on. Nowadays, the "editors" and "proofreaders" are people who put up blogs and claim to be such.

It's difficult--when you shop for one, don't mince around, just ASK THEM. Ask them what their degree is in, what their work experience is. If they don't have genuine work experience, (working at an actual magazine or publishing house in the editing division/department), then do NOT hire them.

Someone saying "I've edited X books" doesn't mean ANYTHING, unless those were for Random House or an author selling >100K books/annum. Any Tom Dick or Harriet can have "edited" 1,000 Indy books, and that means nothing, other than s/he is a good salesperson, who could be taking advantage of people with little knowledge of grammar, punctuation, etc.

Don't be afraid to ask about credentials. Period. Don't let a glitzy-looking Wordpress blog fool you. Really, it's that simple.

Don't believe fancy or purportedly famous credentialling, either. I've never forgotten the alleged "ghost writer" who fooled a former client of mine by saying he'd written X (many) best-selling novels, but that he couldn't tell him which, due to his contractual provisions. All you had to do was read one page of this Ghost guy's prose to know that was utter BS. But my non-author client didn't know that. Ye olden "I can tell you but then I'd have to kill you" answer is bull. Ghost writers get jobs via agencies and publishers--and while the ghost may not be allowed to say so, the publisher or his agent can confirm that s/he's written a novel that sold X, or something akin thereto. If you cannot verify the credentials, don't believe them, PERIOD.

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