February 28, 2014

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers

self_editing_for_fiction_writers.jpgSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers

Renni Browne and Dave King

William Morrow, 2004

A Review by the Authors Themselves

Amazon.com Review by Ralph White

This is a verbatim handout in a clinic the authors taught in 1990 in New York. Each item on

the following self-editing checklist is a deal-breaker for your blockbuster. You manuscript

likely has many of them. Buy this essential book; understand what the checklist items refer

to, and start self-editing.


1) SHOW(ing) AND TELL(ing): As you re-read your work, watch for places where you tell

your readers about personality traits, situations, or emotions, rather than showing them

through actions and events.


2) DIALOGUE DIRECTIVES: Watch like a hawk for places where you've explained your

dialog. Watch for "ly" adverbs and verbs for speech other than "said." And rethink your



3) SEE HOW IT SOUNDS: Read a passage of dialogue, narration, or description aloud and

listen for the unconscious changes.


4) EASY BEATS: Beware of including either beats that describe dialogue or so many beats

that the dialogue is choppy.


5) INTERIOR MONOLOGUE: As with beats, make sure your interior monologue isn't

obtrusive or actually an explanation in disguise. Also, dispense with stage directions

whenever possible.


6) SOPHISTICATION: Watch for "as" and "-ing" constructions and change the sentences

that don't actually require these constructions.


7) BREAKING UP IS EASY TO DO: Break up lengthy sections of narration or descriptions

with frequent paragraphs, or with dialogue, or even with the occasional one or two line



8) POINT OF VIEW: Watch for places where you change point of view in the middle of a

scene. If the change is necessary, insert a linespace and start a new scene.


9) ONCE IS USUALLY ENOUGH: Look for places in which you've accomplished essentially

the same thing twice. Decide which of the two is strongest and cut the weaker phrase,

sentence, or entire scene.


10) VOICE: As you read over your work, highlight the passages that please you most. Then

highlight the passages that displease you and work to turn the one into the other.


11) PROPORTION: As ou read, ask yourself what interests you the most. Then take a look at

what's left and decide whether it's really needed.


12) CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONAND EXPOSITION: Don't describe your characters all at once.

Let your readers meet them slowly, naturally.


13) DON'T LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT: Beware of words like "very" and "rather," strings of

adjectives, fancy imagery, overuse of italics, and exclamation points.


14) ELLIPSIS: Check your work for blow-by-blow descriptions and work to condense them.

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