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Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

Revision & Self-Editing

by James Scott Bell

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233549,595 (3.81)3



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This is a very good in depth look at revision and self-editing for fiction writers. It is well set out and deals with each aspect of the writing process. There are ample examples of the techniques discussed and many exercises the reader can undertake to get the hang of them. Answers for the exercises that require them are at the back of the book. The topics discussed will work for whichever kind of writer you are, a plotter or a pantser. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was that it did not simply focus on the practicalities of revision, it discussed important issues like theme, dialogue, sub-plots, and resonance. There are also discussions on things like motivation and structuring your time. I highly recommend this book to anyone who writes and wishes to publish. ( )
  KatiaMDavis | Dec 19, 2017 |
My suspicion is that there may be as many different ways to write a novel as there are novels. Certainly there are a lot of books on the market to aid and abet this questionable enterprise. There are probably also some books on how to write books providing advice to aspiring authors. Such a book would no doubt draw heavily on James Scott Bell’s highly regarded effort. It has many of the virtues of a book directed at motivated self-starters (i.e. those who’ve already completed a first draft of their future masterpiece). It doesn’t talk down. Bell assumes he is writing for writers like him who want practical advice on how to improve their fiction. It doesn’t seek to inspire or nurture the nascent writer. This is a book for people who’ve already been inspired and are now prepared to get thoroughly mucky turning their initial effort into something worth harvesting. It offers straightforward exercises that any author could perform in order to test their characters, plots, scenes, or dialogue. And the final, lengthy, section of the book is touted as “The Ultimate Revision Checklist”, though Bell suggests varying it to suit your needs. All of which makes this a very practical and useful resource. But if I’m right about there being a nearly infinite number of ways to write a novel, then there is still a chance that it might not be the book for you. In which case, you should probably set about writing your own book on how to write a novel. Or, just skip that step and get busy writing that novel itself.

For me, it wasn’t until chapter nine, “Voice and Style”, that I felt Bell had something important to convey. Unfortunately he immediately acknowledges that these are the two things it’s virtually impossible to teach. His advice — go read a lot of good stuff (novels, poetry, short stories) and write a lot of stuff too (novels, poetry, short stories). Eventually you’ll find your voice and when you do, well, you’ll really have something. It’s surprisingly sensible advice. Sensible in that I sometimes wonder if the people reading books advising authors have done enough reading themselves. Indeed, sometimes such books are written as though the reader may possibly never have encountered a novel before. If that is the case, then do start with chapter nine of this book and follow Bell’s advice. I think you can then skip on to chapter twelve, “Theme”. It’s the aboutness bit of a novel. If your novel isn’t about anything, then it would definitely be a good idea to think about how to work a theme into it. If you’ve got an idea of what your novel is about and you’ve got enough experience reading and writing to have found your unique voice and style, then all of the rest of the chapters of this book will help you in the practical project of turning your first draft into something polished. I look forward to reading the result. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Oct 6, 2016 |
I don't write fiction, but dabble in critiques/developmental editing. This is hands-down the best book I've read on editing. I love James Scott Bell's writing style and he describes editing/revision techniques in ways that are easy to remember. ( )
  HilaryJS | Mar 7, 2016 |
I found this book extremely helpful for polishing up my book for publication. It goes beyond many other books on the topic and suggests ways to clarify your plotlines, strengthen your characters, weed out bad habits and layer in levels of complexity in the edit. If you are a self-published author and cannot afford a professional editor, a) bribe 10 harsh beta-readers to make your manuscript bleed red ink; and b) buy this book ( )
  Anna_Erishkigal | Mar 29, 2013 |
Full review at http://yannabe.com/2009/09/30/review-revision-self-editing/

Summary: A national bestselling author and writing teacher lays out a plan for revising your novel’s first draft.

Review: I wish I could roll up all the tips in this book into some Silly Putty and stick it directly on my brain.

So far, I’ve flipped through about 20 different revision books. Most of those books were too abstract in their advice, and some others (while excellent) were focused on line editing. I needed a book to guide me on the macro edit—pacing, character development, setting, voice, and so on.

This book has all that and more. Including a revision checklist at the back. I am a checklist sort of a girl. (Sometimes in the morning, while I’m in bed waiting for my daughter to wake up next to me, I’ll start composing my checklist for the day in my head and then obsessively repeat the items over and over so I don’t forget them before I get to paper & pen.)

The advice in this book is practical, with writing exercises that aren’t just busy work. It’s clear they’ll get you further along on your revision goals.

As the author suggests, I’m going to expand the checklist to include all the other nuggets throughout the book I want to be sure to check for. But I’m out of the school mindset, so I’ve otherwise drawn a blank on how best to absorb all this wonderful knowledge.

Here’s one tip I plan to use soon:

Then, after some cooling off, produce a summary of the novel. A synopsis, but one’s that subject to change. Because you’re going to try to make it better and deeper. You may even change it significantly.

The summary should be no more than 2,000 to 3,000 words, and you should produce several versions. …If you produce several of these summaries, and finally fine-tune the best version, the method will give you a roadmap for an organic second draft.

You can bet I’m going to read the rest of the Write Great Fiction series. ( )
  kellyholmes | Oct 1, 2009 |
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"Whether you're writing a novel currently or have finished the first draft, Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, Second Edition will give you the guidance you need to revise your manuscript into a novel ready to be sold." --Back Cover

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