The Little Book of Self-editing for Writers by Bridget McKenna

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THE LITTLE BOOK OF SELF-EDITING FOR WRITERS would more properly be called “The Little Book of Copyediting.” After your plot is in order, your characters sound, and all your scenes polished, this is the book to turn to. Many writers stop after the big-picture stuff is taken care of, but that’s a mistake. There is still a lot of work to do at that point, and McKenna shows writers how to get it done. She’s been an editor for twenty-four years, so she knows the most common copyediting mistakes. She’d like to help writers avoid making them.

Some things are obvious to anyone who has edited, or even beta-read, other people’s work. Using too many adverbs, mixing up homophones, odd dialog tags, point-of-view violations, and passive voice are relatively easy to fix.

However, there are deeper things that writers need to watch out for. For example, writers shouldn’t use a negative to describe a character’s action. Don’t tell the reader what didn’t happen, tell the reader what did. Writers also need to avoid redundancy, unnecessary complexity, and starting a scene too early or leaving it too late. McKenna provides examples (both incorrect and correct) to help writers sort out these more subtle problems. In case a writer is feeling bogged-down by all the rules and examples and suggestions, McKenna provides checklists so a writer can systematically copyedit her work.

McKenna understands that all these “rules” can–and should–be broken for the sake of style. However, the more a writer understands the reasons behind the rules, the more she can break them deliberately, for emphasis, instead of willy-nilly. Writers are more effective when they are in total control of their words. THE LITTLE BOOK OF SELF-EDITING FOR WRITERS helps writers get the control they need.

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rating: 4 stars

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pie slices: 8 slices craft

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This book is best for: intermediate writers

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I recommend this book

One thought on “The Little Book of Self-editing for Writers by Bridget McKenna

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful review. I’m glad you enjoyed the book and that you found in it the value I worked to include for writers. I’m working on the next “Little Book” now, in between editing clients’ work and dreaming up new creative projects.

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