Self Editing for Ficton Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

It doesn’t matter who is the first reader of your novel. Whether you’re turning it in to your agent, your editor, or your trusted beta readers, you owe it to yourself to produce the cleanest copy you can before others see it. The problem is, where to start? Maybe you wrote without an outline and are overwhelmed with the thought of editing. Maybe you finished the writing frenzy that is National Novel Writing Month and are wondering if any of your fifty thousand words are worth saving. Maybe you’re bogged down in your third or fourth draft and are starting to do more harm than good. No matter the cause, Browne and King break this huge task into manageable steps. SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS is not a long book. The authors don’t cover everything, but they cover enough.

There are other books that help with the big-picture edits. (See SAVE THE CAT! or TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER.) This is the book to use when fine tuning. Browne and King assume your plot is in order and your characterization solid. They are here to help with things like interior monologue, when to use exposition, staying in point-of-view, and dialog mechanics. These are subtle things. When done well, they go unnoticed. When handled poorly, they will slow down and frustrate a reader. Worse, the reader often won’t be able to pinpoint why she didn’t care for (or didn’t finish) your manuscript. If you’ve ever heard, “It just didn’t work for me,” or “I just didn’t fall in love with it,” the problem is probably one that Browne and King discuss here.

Each chapter gives lots of examples and exercises, so if you know your weakness, or want help with one particular point, you can turn directly to that chapter. The examples are so good and so concrete that the exercises aren’t really necessary. I was able to pick up the essential information and apply it to my own work right away.

Some of my friends dismiss SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS as too rigid. They cite hundreds of successful books that break Browne and King’s rules. When I write, I try to remember that no rule is absolute. Browne and King are holding up an ideal and style has nothing to do with it. I often find that for rhythm, pacing, or a hundred other reasons, I need an adverb or an “ing” verb, even though Browne and King say never to use them. I trust my writing enough to know when to break the rules. That implies that I know exactly what those rules are. If I ever forget them, I’m glad I have SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS to refer to.




rating: 4 stars


This book is best for beginning to intermediate writers


I recommend this book.


3 thoughts on “Self Editing for Ficton Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

  1. This is one of my favorites. Like you say, it’s stuff you can apply directly to your writing and see great results. Sits on my keeper shelf.

  2. A local editor recommended Self-Editing for Fiction Writers to me. Bless her and bless Renni Browne and Dave King! The book is easy to digest and now is an ever-present companion when I am writing.

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