The 10% Solution by Ken Rand

There are two schools of thought on revision. Some writers like to write quickly and revise at leisure, some like to revise as they go. However all writers agree–good writing is good rewriting. Doesn’t mean it’s fun. So when I find a textbook that promises a new way to help with revisions, I want it. Sadly, THE 10% SOLUTION offers no new help and not enough of the old help.

Ken Rand started his writing career in radio, writing advertising copy. He later became a newspaper columnist and is now a novelist. Along the way, he taught himself to cut every story by ten percent, mostly by eliminating adverbs and other unnecessary words. The first third of THE 10% SOLUTION details how Rand, with the help of mentors and books, developed his editing method. It’s a lot of extra information that doesn’t serve the reader in any way. We do not need to know how Rand learned to cut his prose, only that he did.

The middle of THE 10% SOLUTION details the difference between the right (creative) brain and the left (analytical) brain. Rand advises us to write without self-censorship, then revise methodically. This idea isn’t new. Every writer’s manual on the planet will tell you the same thing. The difference, Rand insists, is that his revision method is so complete that you can relax and create freely, knowing his perfect revision checklist will be there when you need it later.

The problem is, Rand’s method is nowhere near complete and perfect. It’s fine, as far as it goes, but it barely scratches the surface of good editing. In fact, it concentrates only on final-stage copyedits, specifically those troublesome words like “very” and “about” that creep into our prose when we’re not looking. Shrinking your draft by ten percent just by cutting weasel words might make your manuscript read more smoothly. However, this has nothing to do with true copy editing, much less true revision. It’s a disservice to beginning writers to suggest that their first drafts can become their final drafts with only a few minor cuts.

THE 10% SOLUTION is a small book, fewer than eighty pages in a large font with big margins. If Rand had truly edited his own manuscript, instead of just slapping a polish on it, he could have cut the entire first section (a self-indulgent biography) and middle section (the left brain/right brain stuff we all know). The remaining section would be a short, useful blog post on the importance of trimming the fat while doing a final draft. Polishing a manuscript is good and necessary, but as a final step, not the only step.

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: beginning writers

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I recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King or The Artful Edit by Susan Bell instead of this book.

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rating: 2 stars

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