Monday, August 1, 2011

Writing on Reading: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

I recently read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print by Rennie Browne and Dave King. It was recommended to me by a teacher, and I'd have to say it's an excellent resource for beginning writers. It wasn't what I expected from the title, however; I'd say it mostly contains tips for writers on how to make their work more professional. Here are some highlights:
  • Show and Tell: Writers should show and tell. I blogged about this section earlier in show and tell.
  • Characterization and Exposition: Don't tell about characters with exposition, especially when you introduce them.
  • Point of View: There are three basic points of view, namely first (the most intimate), third, and omniscient (the least intimate). Pick one and stick with it. This section had too much head-hopping for my taste. :(
  • Proportion: The amount of time you spend on something is someone is directly proportional to the reader's perception of its importance.
  • Dialogue Mechanics & Easy Beats: Don't use adverbs in dialogue tags. Use said in dialogue tags because they're invisible to the reader. Even better, try to eliminate dialogue tags by replacing them with beats, where a beat is a bit of physical action or internal monologue.
  • See How It Sounds: Read your work aloud to make sure it's smooth.
  • Interior Monologue: This is a great way to let readers know what characters are thinking. Incidentally, they say, One of the signs that you are writing from an intimate point of view is that the line between your descriptions and your interior monologue begins to blur. Notice, thus, no italics necessary for thoughts.
  • Breaking Up Is Easy to Do: Paragraph breaks, line breaks and similar can be powerful tools for focusing reader attention and adding tension.
  • Once Is Usually Enough: Generally, you don't want to repeat scenes, ideas, words, or anything else.
  • Sophistication: Generally, don't use as and -ing constructions. Don't use italics or exclamation points for emphasis.
  • Voice: Authors should cultivate a strong unique voice. They do give a couple tips for developing this.
So, there you go, the book in a nutshell. Be sure to check it out for more information if any of these topics interest you.

For me, the most interesting section was on beats, I'd never seen that discussed in a writing book before. In particular, using interior monologue as a beat is a neat idea. One thing I disagreed with was their recommendation to string together short sentences with commas to make your fiction more sophisticated.

How about you? Have you read any good writing books lately?

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