by Renni Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am big on self-editing. I don’t want a professional or even my writer’s group to see my mss 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 am. I review emails–twice–before sending them out. I have a mirror by the front door to be sure I didn’t leave toothpaste on my face.
I have a long list of self-edits I go through (checking for passive, the use of all forms of ‘to be’, 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 one should look at in their mss in three different ways:
- Each chapter covers a multi-page summary on how to do it
- Each chapter includes a checklist at the end to apply to your own writing
- Each chapter includes exercises to allow you to practice the skill if it’s one that is difficult for you
When I first bought Browne and King’s book, I read the entire thing. Not much new in it from what I already knew about writing (I have nine published books I’ve been involved with), but it did include everything I considered important to a well-developed story. Here’s a partial list of the skills:
- Show and tell
- Characterization and exposition
- Point of View
- Dialogue mechanics
- Interior monologue
Now that I knew I can trust it, I went directly to the checklists, to make sure I was doing each part correctly. For example, here’s the Show and Tell Checklist:
- How often do you use narrative summary
- If there’s too much narrative, convert some of it to scenes (that works well to speed up a plot and turn dull into dynamic. I love this one)
- Make sure there’s enough narrative so you don’t bounce from scene to scene
- Does narrative describe feelings? No good.
Overall, for the meticulous writer, this is a good book. My creative friends who want to write off the top of their heads and refuse to be constrained by protocols and rules–I’d skip this one.
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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.