Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
by Renni Browne & Dave King
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks 4/13/2004
Hunted this copy down and found it at Half Price Books
This is the most definitive how-to book on editing I have come across. Most guides dance around absolutes. Don't do this if you can help it. Well, I can't help it! Self-Editing for Fiction Writers tells you straight up, Never do that. Just don't.
You start off with the infamous show and tell lecture and end with a thorough discussion on finding your voice. They earn 5 stars for the easy access layout of the book, for their great writing, and for integrating comics. They maintain the 5 star rating with their nifty exercises at the end of each chapter and corresponding answers in the appendix. This helpful tool made me feel like a legitimate student of editing. And they receive top billing for offering a valuable acronym, R.U.E-resist the urge to explain, which becomes the overriding theme of the book.
Here's where they drop all the way down to three and a half stars. The lessons, tips, and often flat out rules become cookie-cutterish. One of the beauties of the emergence of indie books is the unique quality of storytelling.
Another reason their rating fell involves what I feel is outdated concepts, attributes for example. The authors have definitive nevers in this area. Never try to be clever with an attribute, stick to he said, she said. None of this he chuckled, she purred, he growled, she snarled. Current YA books knock this rule into oblivion and the readers seem to like the added emotion in the attributes despite the fact that Browne and King insist writers are dragging readers out of the story to show off their cleverness.
Lastly, and this is purely my reaction to reading the book, Browne and King put me into one of the worst reading slumps ever! I couldn't stop looking at all the rules my favorite authors were breaking. I understand writing and editing require two different hats, but reading is like breathing for many, and certainly for writers.
With all of that, the good and bad, this is a great guide. I had to go a little Zen with it, absorbing, learning, applying, and then unlearning. My vote is this is a valuable tool for any new fiction writer.