Learning Editing Rules

I mentioned that I purchased a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, Second Edition, published in 2004.

Now, I am recommending it for all unpublished writers, so you can learn the rules. Once the rules are learnt, you will understand why you want to break them, and why you will not break them, if you want to get published.

Not only do they list what they are looking for in a publishable manuscript but give examples of what is wrong, and examples of how to fix.

I was blown away because some of this is opposite to what I have been taught over the past two years. For example: I was told to use “said” with all speech because it blends into the background, but the book explains why you only use “said” if there is confusion between who is talking and no beats to explain who is talking.

Another point is do not use italics for emotion. I use italics for mind speech, foreign/alien words and for emphsis of a word in speech to show emotion. Now, I will not use italics for anything except mind speech and foreign words.

So, I recommend purchasing this book from Amazon or a local second hand book store and keeping it as a reference for editing your work to a standard that publishers/editors will accept for publication.

The areas are:
Show and Tell: Explains how to find it and fix it.
Characterization & Exposition: Introducing characters.
Point of View: Don’t jump heads to show a scene and why.
Proportion: Explains how much detail to write. Important!
Dialogue Mechanics: fully explained.
See How it Sounds: Read aloud to hear errors.
Interior Monologue: Remove all “thought” attributes and why.
Easy Beats: Basically a beat is either internal dialogue or action, and is used to break up dialogue.
Breaking Up Long Paragraphs: Why you should not use long paragraphs.
Once is Usually Enough: Don’t repeat anything, sentence, description, actions.
Sophistication: When not to use “ing”, “as” or “ly” and why not.
Voice: Developing the Writer’s voice.

Note: Holly has a good example of beats in an article on dialogue on her web site.

I also read a published book last night and laughed when I spotted each no-no that editors look for in a manuscript before they accept and publish it. Admittedly, the book was published in 1990, so it shows how things change in a short time.

I will now follow the “editor rules” and hopefully be a step closer to getting “accepted” replies. I will then go over all my manuscripts and make lots of changes.

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2 comments so far

  1. cat on

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll look into it.

  2. LisaM on

    Yes, I’ve had a look at the book on Amazon. Sounds like one to add to my bookshelf. 🙂


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