The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself
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The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  259 ratings  ·  71 reviews
The Artful Edit explores the many-faceted and often misunderstood—or simply overlooked—art of editing. The book brims with examples, quotes, and case studies, including an illuminating discussion of Max Perkins's editorial collaboration with F. Scott Fitzgerald on The Great Gatsby. Susan Bell, a veteran book editor, also offers strategic tips and exercises for self-editing...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published August 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published August 13th 2007)
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There is an endless glut of books which propose to help one unleash one's Muse (yuck), write mystery novels, bestsellers, a killer screenplay, slam poetry and the like: in short, there is a stupefying amount of books that propose to teach, or guide one, into the writing process. Most of them are awful but even the awfullest ones can be inspiring: like your run-of-the-mill self-help book, they can achieve brilliance by inspiring the brain to enter a new cycle of introspection, exciting synapses i...more
Potential readers of Susan Bell's "The Artful Edit" would do well to consider first what this book is, and what it is not. This is not a replacement for the ubiquitous and essential "Elements of Style" which should be on every English speaker's desk. No, where that fine work was written for everyone who wishes to write, Bell's work, I would dare to presume, is meant for writers. And for those people, her pages sing.

Bell offers a considered meditation on various questions related to editing - wha...more
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Summary: An editor offers advice on how to edit your own writing.

Review: I loved the first half of this book for its practicality, but as it got less practical I lost interest. Example:

* Loved learning about how The Great Gatsby changed during the editing process
* Didn’t love reading about the entire history of book editing

One little gem was the author’s tips for gaining perspective on your work—techniques like editing in a different envir...more
Jenny Maloney
Awesome, awesome, awesome! You know how sometimes it takes lots of repetition for a lesson to sink in? (I guess that's the theory behind multiplication tables in third grade....) Well, sometimes I think that we just need a really good teacher to put the lesson in terms that can be understood.

That teacher is Susan Bell. She's a professional editor, and not a bad writer either. =)

Bell breaks down the editing process in order to show writers how they can self edit. And this day in age, with the ton...more
Helpful but--dare I say it?--I think this book needs a good edit. The last chapter is a history of editing. The only reason I can see why it doesn't start the book is because the author didn't want to have to write a conclusion. The book did change my perspective on editing, as was its goal, however. The best part of the book was Chapter 2, in which the author instructs the reader on how to macro-edit using the example of Fitzgerald's and Perkins' collaboration on The Great Gatsby as an example....more
Christoph Paul
Should Have Been A 5...

The writer of this book gets a 5 but the publisher gets a 3, though it should be a 2. The actual editing and advice is excellent and I will use it, but I felt so annoyed and angry at the fluff they threw in the back to give it a certain amount of a word count. Susan Bell is awesome and if that is all she had to say on editing that would have been fine, charge a little less and let it be a smaller book, but it felt like the publisher needed some kind of filler to charge mor...more
This was a book I read with my Journalism class in college, but I found it was actually helpful just as a general guide to editing. Some chapters were more useful than others, but I think it also depends on what you're looking to get out of this book. As an author, the only real advice I've heard is you can't edit yourself; there are always going to be things you need a second pair of eyes for. But this book was unique because it showed what you COULD do.

Some places got a bit wordy. While I enj...more
Drawn out and offering less "tips & tricks" to self-editing than I expected. But overall I guess that this is a good introduction to editing for new writers.
Daniel Jr.
Helpful and different. I will definitely teach from it, esp. for upper level undergrads.
This book gave a lot of strategies and techniques for "self-editing", or perhaps a more traditional term, "revising". Bell gives a lot of practical advice for 'getting in the mood to revise - various techniques and tips to give yourself objectivity during your self-edit. The second and third chapters go a step further, giving strategies best suited toward large and small scale edits. There are nice check lists of various aspects to look at in each of these sections. Structure and pacing at the m...more
Bell suggests reading one's own work (or any work you are editing) alternatively with a macro-lens and micro-lens, and she asserts that these two types of methodical reading cannot be done simultaneously; that a too-methodical reading "will force a text into categories too cleanly divided. Character here, leitmotiv there. Theme here, continuity of style there. But narrative parts work in tandem. [...] Try too hard to separate the parts and you destroy the whole." I found this advice interesting,...more
quick first impressions on two elements of this book. first, as a writer/editor professionally, the practical tips bell provides in the earlier chapters both make me feel sane and provide me with new ideas. as the writer who leaves the apartment to visit the coffee shop to go for a walk before settling in the library, i thoroughly believe in the 'distance' she advocates - among other tips. What I find wonderful about them is that i've never seen the practice of editing so formally (yet informall...more
Lynne Favreau
Susan Bell is an editor, author, and teacher, who developed a seminar on self-editing for a graduate program on which this book is based.

It flows along easily, her writing is conversational as if you are in her class and she is speaking right to you. I find the tone comforting since the subject is so intimidating. Having to self-edit when I know so little of the rules is daunting.

Bloom’s stories of working with writers and the editing process, and that of a few famous writer’s and their editor...more
Oz Barton
When I first realized — with oppressive dread — that the author intended to use The Great Gatsby as her primary example throughout not just a chapter but the entire book, I threw the thing across the room. Literally.

However, despite my abiding hatred for Gatsby and my prejudice against drawing examples from a single source, I picked up this book again, and powered through. And I'm very, very glad I did.

As it turns out, her loyalty to Gatsby doesn't dilute her points the way I expected it to. Ne...more
I have read two other books that claimed to be about editing and revising. While they did provide some helpful tips, after reading, I felt they focused more on what to do while crafting a first draft so that one had less work to do during the editing stage.

That does nothing to help the author that has already completed a first draft.

On the other hand, Susan Bell's book, The Artful Edit, has provided me great insights into what I can do while editing to improve my prose. This book isn't about gra...more
Editing as Creative as Writing

Bell, Susan (2007). The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. New York: W.W. Norton.

Bell has been a book editor for decades and in this well-written (and edited) volume, provides instruction and explanation about the art of editing, for writers who want (need) to edit their own manuscripts, and that would include all writers.

She starts with the big picture, how to evaluate whether your story hangs together, whether you have a structure that works, whethe...more
James Curcio
I'd say this is one of the most useful guides on the subject I've encountered -- because it isn't a guide. With a few minor exceptions, it isn't some cutesy list of do's and dont's, because those things quite simply don't exist.

Every author, and every text, has its own demands, and the goal of writing (in the production stage anyway) is to satisfy those specific demands.

But to satisfy them you must first identify them, and in this is one of the greatest challenges. What IS "good" or "bad" writ...more
Demisty Bellinger
If you attended a good MFA program, or a good Ph.D. in creative writing (or in any field with intensive and extensive writing), Bell's The Artful Edit will serve as a great refresher, or maybe a supplementary text with one or two more ideas/techniques you can add to your self-editing toolbox. But if you are a novice at editing, self or otherwise, I can see this being an important book to read.

That being said, this text can be used in an advanced, undergraduate writing class. Bell offers, as wel...more
Susan Bell's The Artful Edit is a terrific resource for writers. Her main goal is to teach authors how to self-edit, and she gives plenty of practical advice, such as "Go back and create a motive for any character who feels flat" and "Certain words have good posture, others slump. Present participles, or what I call 'ing' words, tend to slump." She also includes checklists and a page showing useful copyediting notations. The best part, though is her in-depth analysis of The Great Gatsby. Fitzger...more
Am I one of the few people who doesn't like Gatsby? The author spends way too much time critiquing "the Great Gatsby."
I enjoyed Renni Browne and James Scott Bell's books on Self Editing much better. This one was filled with too much fluff for me. Wish I could give it more, but I can't in good faith.
John Roche
The gist: A serious writer should be a serious reader of his or her own work.

Susan Bell's editing wisdom is well trenched and her respect for her reader's taste is refreshing. The essays she provide at the end of each chapter are pertinent and contribute another professional's perspective. Her excercises sharpen and challenge our editing ability, and her editing check lists should be copied and committed to heart.

This isn't a rehashing of Strunk and White, nor is it a TomTom for writers. It's a...more
This is an excellent little book for writers and editors alike. I particularly appreciated the lengthy discussion of Maxwell Perkins's collaborative edit with F. Scott Fitzgerald of The Great Gatsby. Having a central work with examples of many kinds of revisions helps illustrate the author's main points about the kinds of things one might seek to improve through editing. The viewpoints she brings in from numerous other writers help emphasize the varieties of the editing experience. I think a lot...more
Suzanne Mishkovski
This was a great book, and a real quick read. I picked it up over Christmas, because I knew that I would need a jump start into editing my first novel. This did a lot of good for me. It tells you all the things you know you should do, but forget to do, or never think about. Now, it's all compiled in one place, so you can make a list, and hopefully never forget. In chapter IV Bell discusses editors of other kinds of things, photographers, sound editors, movie editors. Surprisingly enough, it actu...more
Monique Massiah
This book was a very useful tool that helped me to write my own book.
The first half of this book offered some great practical advice, but the second half was mostly useless and really difficult to get through. It was basically all case studies of various writers and artists on how they edit, and the author of this book, like all writers, should know that just because something works for something else doesn't mean we would all necessarily benefit from using their method. Bell should've stuck to giving general, practical advice on editing, not detailed accounts of...more
Trisha Bridenstine
For anyone editing their own book, this was very helpful as a review.
This book is really helpful for writers and editors. Because it made me want to edit my own work, it made me more excited about actually writing something, if only in order to try out the ideas she suggests. It's nice to read something about editing that's not about mechanics; Bell talks about the macro view and aesthetic choices instead. There are also some great ideas I've already implemented in class, namely not saying "I like this" or "I don't like this" because those are basically meaningle...more
This was a very interesting book. In one section, the author takes segments from "The Great Gatsby" and compares the first draft to the final version and we can see the process used. Some of the language throughout the book is a little esoteric and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a beginning writer - some of the techniques should be explored after the very basics of editing are mastered. Overall, I found it an enlightening read.
I thought that the first three chapters were incredible and helpful and I couldn't wait to start editing a piece shortly after reading them; they focus on the overall edit, the macro edit, and the micro edit. The last two I didn't find as valuable, but others may: overviews of how famous editors edit. A must read for any serious writer.
Amelia Loken
This looked so boring from the outside, but I forced myself to read some of these types of books as my own 'Back-to-School' self-improvement.
Wow! Great insights, explanations and examples. I had never been interested in "The Great Gatsby", but after reading parts throughout this book, used as examples of Fitzgerald's and Perkin's edits, I want to dip into the classic.
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