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books

2 Amazing Books Teach You How to Self-Edit Your Story

Craft of Writing

What I’m Listening To: “That’s Amore!” by Dean Martin — I’m feeling old school today 😉

Something Cool: I just signed up for TSA Pre-Check. I’ll let you know how it goes when I travel on it for the first time! Pre-publication edit: I was approved for this in 3 days! I’m not sure what that says for my dangerousness. o.O

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I hate doing revisions.

That might seem a pretty bold statement for someone who edits for a living.

When I was in my MFA program at Seton Hill University, the thing I always dreaded was doing my own revisions. I loved helping my fellow students improve their work. But my own stuff? Hated it.

Because I dislike it so much, I spent a lot of time reading different ways to approach self-editing. Now, a thing I’ve learned about myself recently is that, for myself, I can work the hell out of a system. Seriously, I can take a system (a self-editing system or really any other) and make it work for whatever situation I need it for. I just can’t make one up from scratch. So I took bits and pieces from a bunch of different places and worked them together, which ended up with me Frankensteining my own system.

And I think that’s the way most writers need to do it. Figure out the bits that work for you and work the hell out of them.

There have been two books, among many, that have stood out as the most helpful for me.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King

I first discovered this one during my grad program. It was one of the recommended books listed in the Writing Popular Fiction handbook. It’s also the one that I consistently encourage the authors who work with me to get. It is an invaluable resource.

Pros

  • It explains, in detail, why things work or don’t work and why they’re the gold standard (or not).
  • It’s been around for a very long time and both the authors know their stuff.
  • It’s easy to find information between the Table of Contents and the detailed Index.

Cons

  • It’s a little bit dry by today’s standards.

Even with the dryness, this is still my #1 go-to for self-editing help.

This book was really the one that explained so much to me about why good writing is good writing. It has dedicated chapters on voice, internal monologue, show and tell (because that’s something we’re all familiar with!), dialogue mechanics and lots of other stuff. There’s so much good info packed between these covers!

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

This is a book in the Write Great Fiction series put out by Writer’s Digest Books. This one is an easier read, because it’s broken up into smaller bits with sidebars and other visual breaks that make it feel easier on the eye. And the information here is just as valuable as SEFW. There’s a bit of overlap between the two books, of course, but this also covers its own ground as well.

Pros

  • It’s an easy read with a lot of visually interesting asides.
  • It’s written in the first person, in a very conversational style, so it’s as if the author is speaking directly to you.
  • It’s a great book to read even before you get to self-editing, like while you’re working on your first draft.

Cons

  • None really.

One of the cool things about this book is that it covers a lot of general writing topics that writers struggle with, such as middles (you know, that part of the book where you want to throw your manuscript into the fire?), point of view, exposition, as well as the standards like show and tell.

I found that the first third or so of the book is very useful before you even write your first draft. There are sections on characters, theme, descriptions, dialogue, etc. This part of the book covers most aspects of what you need to know to get things pretty clean on that initial draft, which, of course, makes the revisions easier!

Both books summarize their chapters and provide exercises to practice what you’ve learned. And both books should be on your shelf! 🙂

Do you own Self Editing for Fiction Writers or Revision & Self-Editing? What do you think of them?


 

 

 

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Venessa’s Top 5 Books on Her Shelf!

Reading

What I’m Listening To: baby birds chirping in the walls — apparently, we have a woodpecker nest in the siding of our house. I’m sure there’s a story idea in there somewhere!

Something Cool: I watched the Doctor Who spinoff show, Class, recently. I blogged about it at Speculative Chic!

Venessa’s Top 5 Books Found on Her Shelf

Okay, read this with the caveat that these choices can often changes with my mood… So I could likely do this once a month and come up with a mostly different list!

These are all books that have had a profound effect on me in some way, whether to influence my writing or my life in general. There isn’t a whole lot of genre consistency here. I have several genres that I love to read in (urban fantasy, horror, mystery/thriller).

Something they do all have in common is that they’re old (of course, I’m old, so there’s that…). If you have some great books with a more recent publication date, drop them in the comments! My TBR pile is certainly not big enough 😉

Okay, here we go!

5. Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice

Love her or hate her, Anne Rice created a brand new subgenre protagonist: the romantic vampire. I remember this being on my mom’s bookshelf when I was about ten or so and I read it not too long after that. I was blown away by the sheer atmosphere of it. It put New Orleans on my bucket list to visit, which I finally did a couple decades later.

4. Hotel Transylvania – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

And if Anne Rice invented the romantic vampire, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro perfected it and, in turn, helped to create another subgenre: historical paranormal romance. I fell in love with the Count Saint Germain and continued to remain in love with him throughout my life. This book, and those that followed, gave me a great appreciation for the richness of history, because Yarbro wrote with such eloquence and lush detail. I eventually ended up a history major at college.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

DON’T PANIC!

If you’ve read the Guide, you know why it’s on this list. If you haven’t, you should. And then you’ll know why it’s on this list. You’ll meet Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillian, Marvin, and, of course, Arthur Dent. All great fun! You’ll be a convert, I promise.

Also, gave me a great appreciation for towels.

2. The Stand – Stephen King

I debated between this and Different Seasons, which is the first Stephen King book I ever read. I plowed through The Stand over a family vacation in Wisconsin when I was 14. It caught my attention and kept me entranced and, of course, I had to finish it before the end of the vacation, because it was on a bookshelf in the cabin we were renting, so I couldn’t take it home with me. I spent the majority of that trip either in my room at the cabin, reading, or carting that book around with me. It was worth it. And it made me a SK fan forever.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Truly, if you haven’t read this book, you should. It is one of the most brilliant and vivid stories of revenge ever written, in my opinion. I believe most writers can learn from his use of deceit and strategy in this book. I loved it so much, I used to read this book every single year for a couple decades, but have gotten out of that habit in recent years. I need to go back to it.

 

So there are the top 5 books on my shelves! Have you read any of them? What are your top books?