I bought this when I’d finished the other books I purchased on how to self-edit (Self-editing for Fiction Writers, How to Write the D*** Good Novel). It’s summary had good ideas, things like Don’t write for your eighty-grade teacher, Don’t complicate the obvious, Don’t add adverbs and adjectives to prettify your prose. Common sense reminders of what I should know but sometimes forget in the flurry of my own prose. After spending an hour with it, I decided the best ideas were the list on the dustcover and beyond the title, there wasn’t much else to learn.
These sound good, don’t they:
- Don’t Passify Your Verb Voice
- Don’t Repeat Without Relevance
- Don’t be Afraid to Make Your Own Rules
All writers who haven’t made a name for themselves, and with that name garnered the right to write as they please, must follow enough good writing rules that an agent will read their mss. I can add a few more to that list–Show not Tell, Beware the Gerund.
When I opened the book, I found that the other writing blunders in the Table of Contents weren’t as obvious from their title. Look at these:
- Don’t be a slave to the grammar guru. The only time to ignore grammar is in dialogue.
- Don’t write the perfect paragraph. I didn’t have to read that one to know where he was headed
- Don’t sprinkle the poet’s urge over the narrator’s product. I get that one too–and I’ve abused it. But then, I grew into my writing, decided to leave poetry for others.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: The book has good tips, but Noble takes a long time to make them. I got them more succinctly in other books, long ago in my career. I don’t think that means I no longer need help. I think it means I need a different kind of help.
The best list of self-edit tips I’ve ever found is in the Marshall Plan. They’re brief, more like reminders than missives, and all very (very) important.
You can read the background on William Noble on his webpage. He seems a likeable, even charismatic man, with a long history of writing. I like that. I may even try one of his other books.