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Write Great Fiction Revision and Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  870 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Don't let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft readers won't be able to forget.

In "Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing," James Scott Bell draws on his experience as a novelist and instructor to provide specific revision tips geared toward the first read-through, as w
ebook, 272 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Writers Digest Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Imagine after a bit of soul searching you came to the conclusion that you were in a co dependent relationship and you needed information as to how to improve yourself. You want to make the relationship work, so you get a book called, "Reality & Self Respect: Techniques for Transforming Your Relationship into a Healthy One." As you're reading it you realize the quality and research is amazing. About 1/4 into the book though, the author starts talking about narcissism and how it affects those ...more
Jordan Price
Since Mr. Bell’s earlier writing book, Plot and Structure, is one of my all-time favorites, and since I’m currently in the midst of a huge revision of a stalled novel, I was eager to get my hands on this book. I didn’t feel the contents and its title really did each other justice.

Much of the advice is about creating the right amount of conflict to keep a story plugging along. There are useful chapters on crafting a solid beginning, middle and end. Avoiding dry exposition is explained. And there’
Newton Nitro
Existem muitos livros com dicas e técnicas para escritores em inglês, mas poucos tão divertidos de se ler quanto o Revision and Self-Editing, do escritor e professor James Scott Bell. Esse é um dos livros mais famosos entre os guias para escritores, principalmente por causa do seu foco em técnicas para revisão e edição de textos ficcionais. Revision and Self é principalmente indicando o que se deve fazer depois que se escreve a Primeira Versão de um livro (a técnica americana de escrever um livr ...more
Firstly, I want to say how I loved this book. This series has a way with keeping me interested!

Secondly, I read another review that stated this book was 80% how to write and 20% how to edit. And at first I agreed with them. But then I sat down and thought about it.

Editing and revising are just going back and polishing up what you've written, adding in more characters or deleting some to make it better! How can you do this if you don't understand the basics well? When I read through the first pa
If you want to get better at editing this is the book for you. Written by bestselling author James Scott Bell the advice is worth heeding. I found the material skewed towards mystery and thriller, which is just fine by me. I learned a great deal. An extremely technical read with great exercises. I can't wait to put what I learned into practice.
C.J. Darlington
How-to books for writing come in as many variations as there are writers. Some are hype, promising you'll make $100,000 in your first year of freelancing or a $50,000 advance on your first novel. They promise much more than they deliver. There are also the texts which do provide some useful information, but they're about as dry as the Nevada desert in August.

But every once in awhile a writing instruction book comes down the pike which not only delivers techniques you can immediately apply to you
Ashlee Willis
Amazing book for anyone revising a novel. I hate revision, but some of the great tips and angles that Bell gave in this book made me want to jump right in and tackle it! :) Think I may have to buy this one at some point ...
January 1, 2015- January 5, 2015
This time I'm actually ready to revise and read the whole book.

April 28 - May 12, 2014
I admit, this time around I skimmed until I reached the Revision status, but that's because I'm looking at this book more as a guidebook for the story that I'm actually revising. :D

July 20-25, 2013
I absolutely love this book and would recommend it to any writer.

I am an aspiring writer who has never actually revised a novel. I just got the writing part down, now I need to learn h
Exercises, advice, encouragement, and practical next-steps abound in this revision how-to guide. I've even become a better reader since starting this book, because I have been shown how to spot and appreciate good writing. As I go through the revision process on my own work, I anticipate turning back to this book again in the future to see how I'm doing. It felt like taking a class (in a good way) complete with homework, and for a tiny fraction of the cost of another degree!
The first seventy-five percent of Revision and Self-Editing discusses the craft of writing from theme to plot to characterization. Only the last twenty-five percent discusses revision.

Although I learned a lot from this book, I believe the book is misnamed and should be Writing and Revising a Great Novel. Alas, my title may not be as catchy, and the author would probably argue that if you practice what is written in the first seventy-five percent of the book, then you will not need as much time
James Scott Bell offers great advice on editing, deepening your story, and making sure the structure of your book is sound. Many of the exercises will be useful during the several rounds of revision necessary to produce a readable and memorable fiction book. I found much here to add to my revision tools. I'll be revisiting this book often.
The last chapter, the checklist, in Revision and Self-Editing is the most useful; I'm currently using it to leave no stone unturned during my revision process. There are good reasons that James Scott Bell's book on writing are perennial favorites and best sellers. I return to them time after time for the concise, common sense advice.
Bill Sweet
I think I get why some people do not like this book: they find the title inaccurate because the book does not immediately jump into techniques of revision. Instead, he spends a large portion of the book discussing essential elements of a novel and its creation, what you do become very important when you get to the revision stage.

However, I think that portion of this book is very important. Both for people who may have not read the rest of the series or for people like me who have. The informatio
Revision & Self-Editing is another valuable writing reference by James Scott Bell (with some overlap from Plot & Structure, and Conflict and Suspense). Despite the title, most of the book (Part One: Self-Editing) deals with the craft. The twelve chapters cover characters, plot & strucutre, dialgoue, setting and description, etc. Part Two: Revision deals with prepatory steps to take before revision, the first readthrough and the Ultimate Revision Checklist(on this checklist alone, if ...more
Samuel Robb
I've wanted to write a novel for decades, and done hundreds of thousands of words of writing without ever really tying together even a full first draft, despite years of tertiary writing courses. I recent read Stephen King's On Writing and found it entertaining and motivating, so I went to the library and flicked through a dozen other books on writing, eventually borrowing six or eight and delving in a little deeper. I found this to be the best. Some were overly systematic and methodical in thei ...more
Devin Berglund
I just recently finished reading this book and found it extremely helpful. James also has great prompts and questions that make you think about your story. It is on my desk while I am editing my novel. :)
There is SO MUCH great stuff in here for novelists. Each page is full of great exercises and tips. This almost serves as a reference book that you can pull out whenever you get stuck and need a boost.
K.M. Weiland
Full of great advice - as Bell's stuff always is - but most of it is on the basics of the craft, rather than editing. Only the last few chapters focus on the subject of the title.
Rita Webb
An excellent, wonderful, tremendous book on the art of self-editing. Great examples from great authors, explaining what they did and why it worked and how you can do it too.
Bill Tillman
Library ebook expired have to do an amazon.
Troy Blackford
This is an exhaustive and incredibly helpful book that covers all aspects of revision and self-editing for fiction writers from a variety of angles. You'll find all manner of helpful tips and useful techniques outlined in this lengthy book, along with a number of checklists and exercises to help you go over your manuscript at all phases of compositions and all stages of drafting. As I said, this is incredibly helpful and includes examples from a wide range of books and movies. An entertainingly ...more
Good information, but not the information I was hoping for. The title is Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel.

I would have titled it Writing & Revision, or maybe What Makes a Good Story and Should be in Your Novel & Revising All of That.

By page count, excluding the index, the "Self-Editing" section and its appendix are something like 75.2% of the book. "Revision" is 24.8%.

Perhaps my understanding of "self-editing" is incorrect. I
Lee Dunning
It hurts me to give three stars to anything written by James Scott Bell. I love his books and find his advice useful. He does an excellent job of getting his ideas across through examples from books of all genres as well as movies. However, what the title of this book promises and what is contained within its pages are two different things.

Having read two other writing books by Mr. Bell, I was excited to read this book just before embarking on my latest editing adventure. Unfortunately, the firs
Full review at

Summary: A national bestselling author and writing teacher lays out a plan for revising your novel’s first draft.

Review: I wish I could roll up all the tips in this book into some Silly Putty and stick it directly on my brain.

So far, I’ve flipped through about 20 different revision books. Most of those books were too abstract in their advice, and some others (while excellent) were focused on line editing. I needed a book to guide me on the m
James Scott Bell is my hero. An electrifying speaker. I picked up his book at the Writer’s Digest Conference a few months ago. He takes a page-turning, straight-forward approach to revision and self-editing in his book, Revision & Self-Editing.

You forget you’re reading a book because you’d swear he was right there breaking everything down for you. His conversational tone totally won me over.

An accomplished writer, he’s living the dream. In this book, he shares his knowledge on revision. He’s
There's so much great stuff here that I might bump this up to five stars once I've worked through it.

I particularly liked that Bell emphasizes practice and experimentation in sharpening the elements of your novel. A lot of this work can (should?) be done before you even start writing the draft, and many of the exercises in the first 75% of the book can easily be applied to projects you're still developing. In fact, there were several I wish I'd already done, because then I'd have even better re
Monica Rodriguez
Revision & Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell, is a terrific guide for anyone working on a second (or third) draft of her or his novel. It covers all stages of editing and revising, with exercises to help you put your new knowledge to work. The first part, on self-editing, Bell calls a "sort of writing boot camp," with chapters on character, story structure, point of view, dialogue, setting, voice, showing & telling, theme, and exposition. The second part gives the writer an approach to r ...more
I read this book with a pencil in my hand, drawing a mindmap, so later I quickly can review what I learned from it. I started to write short while ago, and I'm studying writing advices since then. I finished the first draft of my novel, so I thought it's time to get a book on editing. I thought I had some idea on editing, and I only needed to fill in some holes. Now I see how big those holes were.

Reading through this book some may say that the majority of the advice concerns writing the first dr
Great writing book and a nice section on the editing process. As others have mentioned, about 75% of the book is writing advice and the last portion is the actual editing process. I found it all useful, but wished that ratio was reversed.

I think it's humorous that a book on revision should quote Heinlein's rules of writing, but omit rule three "You must refrain from re-writing, except to editorial order." Of course, I don't think Heinlein meant you shouldn't improve your work before submitting
Kathy Mcdonough
James Scott Bell writes with ease about revision and editing. A lot of people don't like to revise and edit. I have the opposite problem. I love to tweak and putsy around in the land of revising and editing. I can play with a piece of writing forever. James Scott Bell's book helps me focus and get out of that land. If a manuscript is going to move on it has to move on. This book helped me move on.
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  • Description & Setting
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints
  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Plot
  • Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
  • Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time
  • Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters
  • Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story.
  • Description
  • What Would Your Character Do?: Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Characters
  • The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
  • Breathing Life into Your Characters
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
Jim is a former trial lawyer who now writes and speaks full time. He is the bestselling author of Try Dying, No Legal Grounds, Presumed Guilty, Glimpses of Paradise, Breach of Promise and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Inspirational Fiction, and was a fiction columnist for Writers Digest magazine. He has written two books in the Writers' Digest serie ...more
More about James Scott Bell...

Other Books in the Series

Write Great Fiction (5 books)
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
  • Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue
  • Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints
  • Description & Setting
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between Presumed Guilty Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense

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