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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,115 ratings  ·  854 reviews
"A superb tutorial for anyone wanting to learn from pros how to polish fiction writing with panache."-- Library Journal

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

In this completely re
Paperback, Second Edition, 288 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1993)
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Jul 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great tips--

As a writer, I winced at every amateur mistake they listed that applied to me. The book tells you how to write a story and edit it so that the reader can identify with the characters and enjoy the story.

It's not catering to the mainstream.

It's about the craft.

Sure, they cite many obscure and minor authors and bash literary giants like Melville et al, but frankly, many of literary giants come to their prominence not because of their story-telling talent, but often because of somethin
Becka Sutton
Jul 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all writers
There are three kinds of writing books.

* Those that try to tell you how to get published. These books generally claim to have found the magic formula to get publishers to accept your book. The problem with this - as the blog entry I linked in my previous post pointed out - is that there is no magic formula.
* Then there are those that try to tell you how to write in the first place. They tend to be a formula the writer found worked for them to get the words out and therefore assume will work fo
Spencer Orey
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Super useful.

The first chapter on narration vs action is worth the price alone. Best explanation of show vs. tell I've found yet.
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I am a big self-editor. I don't want a professional editor or even my writer's group to see my writing before it's as good as I can get it. I'm like that in all parts of my life. I clean the house before my house cleaner shows up so she never knows how messy I really am.

I have a long list of self-edits I go through (checking for passive, the use of 'was', repeated words, etc.), but I found a book I like called Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. It covers everything
Feb 01, 2013 added it
I should have read this book seven years ago, which is when I bought it. I find non-fiction (and any story lacking the presence of aliens) difficult to focus on, though. Maybe I thought having it on my shelf, or the simple purchase, itself, would make me a better writer. I could look up at the spine now and again and say, “Yeah. I have that book. I’m a writer.”

I am a writer—anyone can be one of those. But according to this book, I’m not a very good one. Yet. I’ll get there, but it won’t be becau
I’m not a writer or an editor. I’m just a person who loves to read and learn, and I definitely learned a lot from this book. This is not a book on grammar but on writing fiction. Browne and King cover many topics some of which are: show vs. tell, monologue, beats, proportion, and repetition.

I loved the way the book was structured. Each chapter has several examples, a checklist, and exercises. What’s great is the examples and exercises build on the chapters before, so you are constantly reinforci
William Aicher
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
My second read-through of this book. The first time I read it was when I started the editing process for my novel, A Confession. This read-through is while I'm editing my upcoming novel, 'The Unfortunate Expiration of One Mr. David S. Sparks.' As I read it the first time I found quite a few useful tips - especially for things to be conscious of in my own writing as I self-edited. And I firmly believe A Confession turned out all the better for it.

Now, as I edit my next novel, I've returned to thi
Oct 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Even though I think there's a need for a book that explains the basic "how-to's" for beginner writers, this book had too many good "bad examples" and too many bad "good examples" to be objective. The authors seem to have their own fixed way of seeing good writing without making room for the stylistic variations that occur between genres. The give no leeway for different tastes either, and I'm afraid they'll force many new writers into boxed-in space. They do state that the old version of this bo ...more
Helen Power
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was fantastic! I was worried that there would be too much focus on the mechanics of writing (ex. where to put commas, how to pluralize names that end in 's', etc.), but Browne and King truly created a different kind of book. They talk about how writers should show, not tell, in their writing, how to use voice and style, how to effectively use beats in dialogue, and many other tips and tricks that you can't get from a book on grammar.

Browne and King provide many examples throughout the
Lewis Weinstein
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
UPDATED 5/12/15 ... Read it again. The margins are filled with notes. It is so helpful to read this while I am in the midst of editing my own novel-in-progress.


This is an absolutely terrific book ... page after page of suggestions ... great stimulus to thought about my novel in progress ... LEW ...
Una Tiers
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I clicked I'm Finished, I didn't mean it. While I read the book, I know I will come back to it again because it has so much terrific information and observations.
My favorite is what they say about dialogue. :)
Roy Lotz
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’ll start with the summary: This book has fantastic advice for any aspiring fiction writers. It is well-written, full of examples, and even comes with exercises (which I didn’t do). Definitely worth reading.

And now the review.

Any rules for art are bound to fall short. Art is distinguished from craft or other activities by its freedom from definite laws. Even the advice of an experienced professional will likely be contradicted by the advice of another, and it is almost certain that someone will
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who's interested in writing and/or editing.
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
The first thing I always want to know when I'm reading a book that purportedly teaches you how to improve your writing, especially if the intent is to be published, is "Okay, how many books have you published?"

However, this isn't necessarily a fair question. My own publication history is pretty thin -- basically, I have written a lot of roleplaying game supplements for a major RPG company. (See my author page for details.) My writing was generally well-regarded, but that's a rather odd niche and
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book has helped me out the absolute most with my craft. If you are writing anything then I recommend four things:

-This book
-The Writing Excuses podcast
-On Writing by Stephen King
-The Emotion Thesaurus

But I think this book helps me the most with actual craft. So if you're looking for books on how words interact with one another and how to do it well. Read this book. Front to back and back to front.
Jonathan Peto
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have skim-read this book at least three times since carefully reading it two or three David Mitchell books ago (maybe ten Stephen Kings ago?). This week, I reread previously marked passages. It was so thought-provoking I “finished” the book, even though that had not been my intention.

The first time I read it I had countless revelations. Did I even pay attention to the difference between narrative summary and a scene then, never mind their uses? Did I understand that third person POV was a cont
Browne and King offer a number of helpful suggestions to keep in mind while editing your work, although even the best of them should be taken with a grain of salt. I was struck especially by how time-bound the conventions of writing are, or at least appear to be from what B&K now consider successful techniques (by some of their criteria, much of the writing of Wodehouse and Dostoevsky is disastrous). I don't read contemporary fiction—are all writers nowadays really modeling their novels after Ho ...more
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
When people talk about books that changed their lives, they usually talk about novels. The power of fiction is incredible and stories like "The Lord of the Rings" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" resonate for decades. But if someone asked me what book changed my life, I'd have to point to "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers." Yes, I'd immediately be branded a super-dork, but this book transformed my work like nothing before or since.

For ten years, I'd been struggling with "Show, Don't Tell." Everybody
Leo Robertson
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
Really nice collection of pitfalls. Sure to relieve any young writer, either because they have new eyes with which to view their manuscript, or because there are many mistakes they are glad not to have made.
Dr. Block
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that you have to read at the right time in your life. If I had read this ten years ago, I would have said, "Very helpful. I'll be sure to remember this when I finally become a writer." Now that I've published a few dozen books, I read this book and thought, "This is the Holy Grail. This book is absolutely amazing."

I guess, what I am trying to say is, if you want to be a writer or if you already are one, READ this book. Then, read it again at least once per year until
Will Once
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Let's be honest here ... the publishing world is awash with very poor books.

For every book that is published, there are 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 that never make it. They either can't find a traditionally publisher or they are self published and sell only a handful of copies.

And behind every single one of these books is a huge dollop of pain and heartache for the author. They had such high hopes of fame, fortune and glory and it just didn't happen. The slush pile can be a very gloomy and lonely pl
Brandon Miller
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: craft-books
Seemingly any time you ask an industry professionals for a craft book recommendation, you can count either King's On Writing or this unassuming little volume. That being said, I had high expectations. (And they were not met.)
The content of the book wasn't bad. I underlined or took notes on just about every page. There were even a few true ah-ha moments. Nothing truly revolutionary, though.
To compound the problem, the organization was not up to par. One chapter (with a witty and terribly unhelpfu
Beth Cato
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, writing, in
This was a highly rated editing book on Amazon, but even then, I was concerned that it would be dry or boring. I shouldn't have been. I can see why the ratings were so high - it is an excellent guide to honing technique, bit by bit. The thing that makes this book so compelling is that there are constant examples of mistakes or correct usage from both published and non-published stories. They covered a wide range of genres, too (I was happy to see an excerpt from a YA/sci-fi book I loved as a kid ...more
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Some solid advice in here but a little heavy on the exercises (which felt like they made up half the book and which I never took the time to complete). I feel like 75 percent of the content is geared toward someone who is a totally newbie, but still gleaned a few tips to apply to my own writing.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read08
Terrific book for all of us who want to edit our writing but have no idea where to start.
William Prystauk
Apr 26, 2013 rated it liked it
There are great points to be made in this work, but the book seems to be geared towards people who "want" to write instead of those already committed to the craft. ...more
E.B. Lunsford
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best self-editing books I’ve ever come across.

This is a great book for all writers, regardless of skill level. It covered a little bit of everything from showing vs. telling, characterization, point of view, dialogue, interior monologue, beats, and voice. It also included tons of writing exercises to improve your writing. While I wasn’t able to do them all, but I will be saving them to do later.

Some of the advice given was truly invaluable and not covered in any of the other books I’v
Daniel Roy
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
A quick, instructive read. Although this book didn't teach me anything new per se, it explained a lot of the groundwork of solid writing and editing in a clear, concise manner, with some great examples. For instance, the authors dissect and re-edit some parts of The Great Gatsby using modern editing sensibilities (for instance by ditching dialog adverbs), and the effect is immediate and striking.

The two chapters on dialogues were the most insightful to me. Although I've long since inherited Step
Josephine Myles
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-books
This book didn't exactly cover what I was hoping for, which was a more general overview of how to go about editing a long manuscript for structural problems. There is some advice about proportion, but on the whole it focuses on polishing your writing scene by scene (or word by word). That said, it is a very useful resource and I've certainly learnt about a few ways I can improve my writing.

The strengths of this as a writing book are in the clear explanations and numerous examples to illustrate t
Marne - Reader By the Water
One of my goals is to be a more critical reader. To not just say “I liked it,” or “I didn’t like it,” but to be able to articulate why. Heck, to understand why. Why do some books pull me down the rabbit hole (The Magician’s Assistant) while others - despite an intriguing plot - are just a slog (Winds of War), and why some are so aggravating I abandon them despite everyone else loving them (The Word Exchange). I’m still working on this. I find my emotions still get in the way of being critical. B ...more
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