book reviews / editing

Book Review: Self-editing for Fiction Writers

Self-Editing for Fiction WritersSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

by Renni Browne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

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
  • Voice

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.

More articles on editing

How to Edit Your Novel (according to Yuvi)

Faster editing

Edit block

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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 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.

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33 thoughts on “Book Review: Self-editing for Fiction Writers

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