Take a quick browse through a bookstore or Amazon’s virtual shelves and you’ll discover that there are hundreds of books about how to write fiction. But when you need to get serious about self-editing your manuscript, pickings are slim. Still, a few fantastic books stand out as tremendous guides to help fiction writers self-edit. Here’s our list of four you should consider adding to your shelves.
#1 – Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print
By Renni Browne and Dave King
When your goal is to turn a rough draft into a work of fiction you’d be proud to submit to an editor, you can’t go wrong with two professional editors guiding you through the process. Consider this book a how-to for tackling the job of revision after you’ve shrugged off the mantle of writer and donned your editor robes. It’s an easy, straightforward read.
If you want to practice your self-editing techniques, Self Editing for Fiction Writers also contains hands-on exercises you can work through.
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#2 – The Little Red Writing Book
By Brandon Royal
“My! What big adverbs you have!” said Little Red Riding Hood.
“The better to ruin your manuscript, my dear,” said the Big Bad Writing Wolf.
The publishing woods are scary, and this book is filled with self-editing advice that will ultimately help you navigate them. Just be warned that it’ll lead you through by an indirect route—it’s not written with fiction writers in mind.
The Little Red Writing Book is for students and business professionals. But as it talks about persuasive writing and essays (bear with us) it teaches twenty “immutable rules” for writing clearly and effectively and runs through thirty grammar issues, too. These guidelines apply to fiction writing as much as they apply to the big quarterly report you’re writing for Monday’s meeting. No matter what you’re writing, clarity and precision are critical. What good is fiction if its meaning is lost in disorganized thinking and muddy language?
#3 – On Writing
By Stephen King
If you’ve already read Stephen King’s On Writing you’re probably having a fond flashback to one of his entertaining writer origin stories right now. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s no time like the present.
King’s book is one part memoir about his evolution as a writer and one part craft book. It’s low on actionable, hands-on editing advice, but overflowing with insight and inspiration. It’ll make you want to be a better writer. And that will make you want to be a better editor, too.
King’s advice to “Write with the door closed; edit with the door open” is timeless. So is his warning that “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” His words will make you eager to pick up that red pen and start taking your manuscript to task.
#4 – Revision and Self-Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel that Sells
By James Scott Bell
Best-selling thriller author James Scott Bell takes a big-picture view of manuscript revision. In this book, he tackles issues like editing for plot, structure, character, and theme. He also includes The Ultimate Revision Checklist, a step-by-step process for taking a deep look at your work when self-editing.
Despite the utilitarian title, Bell’s book delivers sound advice in a thoughtful, entertaining way. And it’s got glowing reviews from Amazon, Google, GoodReads and more to prove it. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a book on copy editing so much as taking a long look at problems with structure, conflict, and pacing.
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Do you have a favorite self-editing book? Has one of these books helped you in your mastery of self-editing techniques? Leave a comment to tell us about it!