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Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel (Write Great Fiction)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,354 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
Spot and Fix Manuscript Missteps

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 towar
Paperback, 1st ed., 266 pages
Published May 5th 2008 by Writer's Digest Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Aug 08, 2012 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 rated it it was amazing
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’
K.M. Weiland
Dec 17, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Newton Nitro
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Ashlee Willis
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it
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 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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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.
Katia M. Davis
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very good in depth look at revision and self-editing for fiction writers. It is well set out and deals with each aspect of the writing process. There are ample examples of the techniques discussed and many exercises the reader can undertake to get the hang of them. Answers for the exercises that require them are at the back of the book. The topics discussed will work for whichever kind of writer you are, a plotter or a pantser. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was that i ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Stephen King read, and now I want to read everything he's written, but I CAN'T. The scary horror is too rattling, so I'm sifting through descriptions and reviews. The Stand looks like a great place to being and I'm already loving it. His Voice is liberating mine, and his personal backstory and craft insights have changed the way I write.
Matt Khourie
For a book on revision...

Solid book, decent advise, but difficult to sort through because of the recurring issue of apostrophes being used where commas should be. Maybe it's formatting issue, but it complicates taking the author's advice.
Suz Jay
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This comprehensive craft book hits on all of the things that should be considered when writing great fiction. This is one for my keeper shelf!
Laura Gilfillan
Full of great tips for writing. Well worth a revisit sometime. The section on actual revision and editing was disappointingly short. I would be interested in reading other books in this series.
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, helpful.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
Great book. The last 20% on revising and editing is worth a second read.
Jan 16, 2017 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 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction
  • Description
  • Plot
  • Story Structure Architect
  • 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: How to Give Your Characters Emotional & Psychological Depth
  • Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
  • What Would Your Character Do?
  • On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells
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
“You keep writing because it's the only way to finish the book.” 2 likes
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