Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print

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 IMG_1400discussed 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.              MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1 MARKER_1

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.



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.




One Comment on “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print

  1. Pingback: SHOW, DON’T TELL PART 1 – Jean Matthew Hall

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