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

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  1,203 Ratings  ·  136 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 wel
ebook, 272 pages
Published April 21st 2008 by Writers Digest Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Aug 08, 2012 Liza rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
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
Nov 22, 2010 Jordan Price rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2014 Newton Nitro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-guides
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
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.
Ashlee Willis
May 14, 2014 Ashlee Willis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...
C.J. Darlington
Feb 14, 2015 C.J. Darlington rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-how-to
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
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
Jul 09, 2012 J.L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
A.L. Buehrer
I love the Write Great Fiction series. This book is an awesome reference. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five was that a lot of it was just summarizing content from the other books in the series.

There's a great revision checklist in the back. I love checklists in theory, but my brain doesn't actually know how to use them. For people who have brains that do, I'm sure you will enjoy this book all the more.

Highly recommended.
Jan 26, 2013 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 22, 2013 Kathrese rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
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.
Jun 01, 2015 LATOYA SAUNDERS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lucas Carlson
Oct 23, 2015 Lucas Carlson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book for self editing

If you are even considering writing fiction of any sort or any length... Put this on your must read books list because it is exactly how to not look like a rank beginner.
Devin Berglund
Feb 25, 2013 Devin Berglund rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. :)
Aug 01, 2012 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Bill Tillman
Library ebook expired have to do an amazon.
Rita Webb
May 19, 2009 Rita Webb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 18, 2017 Petite rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, helpful.
Jan 16, 2017 Sheri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-loan, writing
This edition was a library loan but I've put it on my list of To Buys.
Mar 04, 2017 Charlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the textbook for a course I'm teaching, and it offers a lot of fantastic tips for revising a novel. It gave me quite a few great suggestions that I'm going to implement into my own writing. Looking forward to it!
Ross Lampert
Let’s get this on the table right now: Jim Bell does not write a bad craft-of-writing book. Does NOT.

In one case, however, the title of his book does not match the contents. That case is Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. As K. M. Weiland noted in her 3-star review of this book here on Goodreads, there’s little here about revision or self-editing. That’s too bad because what little there is clearly shows that if Bell had focused on those tasks, rather than writing yet another book about
A. M. Aitken
Perfect for beginners
Let me just start by saying that this book would be ideal for writers who have no experience writing. Why do I say this? Because the first half of the book is dedicated to small summaries of how you could (should maybe) write and examples of plot etc. (the basics). I’m not saying the first half is useless, but I didn’t find anything new in there, and it wasn’t that relevant to the title of the book (a little misleading).

I like Bell’s tone throughout the book. He has an e
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
Sep 23, 2009 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, writing, owned
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
Feb 08, 2012 Kourtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-tips
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
Sep 18, 2014 Sammy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
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
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
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
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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
  • The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Description
  • Plot
  • Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Plots, Characters and Complications
  • Conflict, Action and Suspense (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • 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
  • Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story.
  • Breathing Life into Your Characters
  • Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
  • What Would Your Character Do?: Personality Quizzes for Analyzing Your Characters
  • On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells

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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

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“Sometimes writing a novel feels about as rewarding as turning a spit in the fires of hell.” 2 likes
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