Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print
By Renni Browne and Dave King, Illustrated by George Booth
Published by Quill: Harper Collins in 1993.
In 2004, I was in an amazing critique group called the Mudskippers (For a 5 minute video about nature’s mudskippers click here.) As a group we Mudskippers read together and discussed a little book that has proven to be an invaluable resource for me year after year. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.
At only 200 pocket-sized pages it seems slight. But every line of every page is packed with useful information.
I give this book 5 out of 5 highlighters.
Browne and King’s twelve chapters cover with clarity and precision key areas that every fiction writer needs to hone.
- Showing AND Telling
- Characterization and Exposition
- Point of View
- Dialogue (two chapters)
- Interior Monologue
- Easy Beats (for dialogue)
- Using white space for dialogue and pacing
- Unintentional repetition
- Proportion (finding the right balance of details in description and action)
- Sophistication (avoiding constructions that slow the story down such as –ing and as clauses and phrases.)
- Voice (definition and tips on encouraging developing your distinctive fiction voice.)
Incredible techniques for writing and critiquing fill every chapter.
Reading and re-reading Self-Editing made me aware of subtle characteristics that make writing great instead of good, and how to both identify and use those characteristics to elevate my writing to a higher level – a publishable level.
Probably the most useful thing I absorbed from Browne and King’s Self-Editing is something I use every time I write, revise, re-write or critique.
RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN.
Assume that your reader is intelligent and can figure some things out for her/himself.
- Resist the urge to add too much description or detail.
- Resist the urge to use adjectives and adverbs instead of strong nouns and verbs.
- Resist the urge to give your reader more than a smathering of backstory.
- Resist the urge to use a lot of interior monologue – thoughts.
- Resist the urge to give your reader information dumps.
- Resist the urge to write a paragraph when a sentence will do.
- Resist the urge to TELL me about your character or plot when you can SHOW me.
I have a long way to go as a writer. But Self-Editing has brought me a long way from my first attempts. I believe that putting into practice the fundamentals in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers has transformed much of my writing from ordinary to something special.
And that something special is what agents, editors and readers are looking for.