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Book Review: Self-editing For Fiction Writers

Updated on February 1, 2015
Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile.
Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile. | Source

Self-editing for Fiction Writers - Paperback

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

This is one of those writing resources you should keep by your side next to the dictionary, thesaurus, and writers reference.


By Renni Browne and Dave King

The road to self publishing isn't necessarily paved with gemstones and gold or platinum. Authors choosing self publishing have a lot of work to do along the way. Being one such dabbler in the writing arts, I have found out just how much there is to do before a book can be published. One of the chief complaints from readers of self published work is poor editing. Though I have used the services of a good editor, I also try to produce as clean a copy as I'm capable of doing beforehand. Editing is my weakest skill when it comes to writing. I can stare at an error repeatedly and miss it entirely each time.

This very useful book (and I recommend it highly) addresses the different paces of editing through which a book should be put. It's not sufficient to check for spelling errors. With spell check, this would be too easy anyway. There are exercises and examples which make acquiring a better set of editing skills more doable. Oddly enough, today's publishing houses don't put as much effort into editing a book as they may have ten or twenty years ago. Many times a book is published as received with little attention from a professional editor. It's in the best interest of both the written work and the author to have their books edited by a professional (if they don't do so themselves) before submitting it for consideration for publication. The tips and information provided herein are also pertinent to fiction writing rather than nonfiction. There may be some crossover but keep in mind there is a difference in approach which should be taken into consideration.

What this book does is teach editing as would be done by a professional editor. If you were to look at writing as a craft in its own right and editing another craft closely related to writing, you'd be on the road to understanding just what the authors intend to do here. They won't be teaching the mechanics of the writing craft but rather the skills needed for editing. The one caveat from the book I'll share with you is, "... writing and editing are two different processes requiring two different mindsets. Don't try to do both at once."

Self-editing For Fiction Writers is available in paperback, Nook and Kindle formats.

Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile.
Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile. | Source

Other Tips For Self Editing

Things I've Picked Up Along the Way

  • Alpha and beta readers are your first and second line readers. They will see things you, the writer, may miss. They also can point out things that work and don't work. Your alpha readers are your friends and family members who, though they aren't writers themselves, are readers and know what they like and don't like. They don't have to be able to point out grammar and other mechanical errors. Your beta are a group of readers you select who are also writers in one venue or another. They will not only be able to tell you what works and what doesn't, but also catch mechanical and structural errors. Not all of your beta readers have to be writers, but the majority in this group should be. A writers group makes for a good beta group.
  • Edit from the back page and last word.A technique I have used previously which is extremely helpful is to start reading the manuscript from the last page and last word working forward. I later found that other writers employ this method of editing, so I knew I was doing something right. (NOTE: I recently edited a short story and fell back on this technique for the revision process. After reading through the story from the beginning twice, I started with the last sentence and read each sentence one at a time, progressing in reverse order. I found quite a few things I'd missed. Next, I'll start with the last word and read each word one at a time, progressing in reverse order.)
  • Note added 05/29/14
  • Share your working idea with either your beta or alpha group members to get a feel for what they think of the idea. This shouldn't include feedback in the way of grammar and editing mistakes or things along those lines. This information will provide an idea of where to tread and how to proceed with the idea as you flesh it out. Even if the feedback is negative, don't let it stop you from writing your story. Use it rather as a map of sorts as you navigate its terrain.
  • Employ a mentor,someone whose feedback you really respect for quality and expertise. I was fortunate to find such a mentor early on. It made a tremendous difference in how I approached writing. I'm ever grateful for that experience. It just so happened as I was soliciting readers for my book that this person volunteered and was a reliable resource for information as I broke into writing. She provided the right balance of encouragement and caveats as I starting climbing the learning curve of writing and self-publishing. One thing I recommend you not do is become a pest to get people to read your book. Post general invites in your facebook or other social media requesting feedback on your book. Offer to return the favor. Keep in mind many people are busy and have other writing and reading obligations so they may not be able to put your book on the top of the pile, so to speak. Even though initially you might ask for a time frame for them to be done, ask what their reading load is, but don't, DON'T pester them to get it done quickly or for a commitment as to when they'll be done. Also, offer to return the favor for one of their books or stories.
  • Find one or more writers groups to participate in. There are virtual and live group options. These are the people who will be with you through the writing of the book and can provide information from a variety of experience and skill levels. Remember, the group experience works best if you contribute in kind.

Showing & Telling: Learn How to Show & When to Tell for Powerful & Balanced Writing
Showing & Telling: Learn How to Show & When to Tell for Powerful & Balanced Writing

The difference between the novice and seasoned writers is having a good grasp of when to show and when to tell. Alberts clarifies this ambiguous concept and uses understandable examples as well as a layperson's language. Available in Kindle and Nook also.

Write Great Fiction series (CD)
Write Great Fiction series (CD)

This CD contains all books in the series. The books themselves are available in Kindle and Paperback formats. See above for a link to them. Available in Nook Format also.


Other Writing Resources to Consider - Learning and Re-Learning the Craft

One has to start somewhere to learn something new. The beginning usually works best. For me, I like to imagine the playing board to have squares which need to be filled in. Each new body of information I acquire fills one square. When it comes to writing it would seem the perimeter is forever being increased by one more row or column of squares, so I guess one can never know it all when it comes to writing. I suspect that when I can really say I'm a fully seasoned writer, I'll look back and find some of the squares have become less distinct in my mind, thus requiring that I go back and reacquaint myself with the information therein. Have you heard of your never ending battles?

The Write Great Fiction series is quite good. I recommend it highly. Though I've provided a link to the complete set on CD, the books themselves are available in Nook, Kindle and Paperback formats.

Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life
Everyday Writing: Tips and Prompts to Fit Your Regularly Scheduled Life

Many of us don't have the luxury to be able to write for a living and not have to go into a "real" job. Many of us also have family and social obligations which require much of our free time. This book helps you keep your fingers in the writing pie while meeting our day-to-day obligations. Oh, and yes, if ol' jo doesn't get you going to write, the book is chock full of writing prompts. Available in Kindle format also.


Do you write?

If you write, do you self edit?

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The Complete Guide to Writers Groups That Work
The Complete Guide to Writers Groups That Work

One can't say enough about the value of a writers group for a writer, whether novice or expert. Available in Nook and Kindle also.

The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback
The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback

When participating in a writing group, it's important to know how to get the most out of the experience as well as be a contributor to the best you're able to be. Available in Nook and Kindle also.

Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile.
Image photo-manipulated by hub author. Original image from Morguefile. | Source

The Value of Knowing How to Self Edit

Even if you don't do your own editing, it's good to know how it's done.

Browne and King do a bang up job in this book. Even if you don't do your own editing, how will you know if your professional editor is doing it right (besides their fee)? When I got my first car, a 1966 Chevy Nova II, I decided to learn how to change my own oil, replace filters and a few other basic tasks. I also read information on how to do a tune-up. Did I do my own tune-ups? No. But, I knew how to tell if the mechanic had done the job right. Also, in those days, less ethical mechanics would take advantage of a woman when providing service. I didn't encounter this problem because not only did I make it clear I could do it myself if I had to, I also sent the message that I knew how to tell if they did it right. Learn how to edit your work passably well. This way, your editor will always know you value the quality of their editing so they will always do a great job. This also establishes the boundaries of trust between you and your editor as well.

If you're looking for a great virtual writer's group, I recommend Scribophile.

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© 2014 Tanya Jones

I'd love to get your feedback. Please take a moment to comment below. - Got something to add? Make a note of it in a comment below.

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    • profile image


      17 months ago

      I'm having a bear of a time finding readers. I managed to round up a few of alpha readers but am looking for the betas. Editing has been a challenge but I am working it out and do plan on hireing an editor. I am rewriting. Wondering if I will ever complete this process. When is it ever good enough? I hope to have the draft complete by June. Praying!!!

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      3 years ago from Texas USA

      RonElFran, I finally decided to have a professional review my work. The one I recommend in the hub is excellent. She doesn't miss anything that I've found. I also don't do my own auto repairs because I don't think I'd do a good job, so I go to a professional. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      3 years ago from Texas USA

      You're definitely right about not liking proof reading. But, no matter how slowly I take it, I miss things. The back-to-front technique is the best way for me to do it. Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Colin323.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      This book sounds like a valuable resource. I've never had any editor look at my work. I wonder if there may be habitual defects I just don't see.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I tried the reading backwards technique and it works really well. It forces you to slow down for a start, and the reverse-linear approach picks up issues with missing or misspelt transition words. I think the proof-reading stage is the one many writers dislike the most, causing them to rush through it - and missing small errors in the process.

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      @BodyHairRemoval: Yes, it can be a struggle. I find that my writing group helps and then once I'm done with what I can do, I send it off to an editor. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

    • BodyHairRemoval profile image


      4 years ago

      I've always struggled editing my own stuff.

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      @Colin323: Thank you, Colin323, for the congrats. Let me know how this works for you. I appreciate your stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I liked the reading back from the ending idea - will try that, as my eyes will skip over mistakes if I read in the usual linear-forward way. Great lens; congratulations on the Purple Star

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      @John Dyhouse: Hi, artyfax. I know how you feel. I used a professional editor on one (the link should be there on the lens) and then also participate in a writers group. I hope to put together a beta group as well. I use Createspace also. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      4 years ago from UK

      I really feel that I will be getting help with my next book. I have now published four short books. I read the text carefully on the screen for the first edit and used the MS Word spell/grammar check, printed it out and re-read with a high-lighter in hand and edited. After uploading (I used Createspace) I bought a proof copy and edited, I used the on-line proof reader and made final corrections. I bought a personal copy AND still I found the occasional typo.

      Next time I shall enlist a second and third person to check for typos at the proof stage.

    • Arachnea profile imageAUTHOR

      Tanya Jones 

      4 years ago from Texas USA

      @SusanDeppner: Hi, Susan. I appreciate your comments. I envy your being able to do your own editing and you've got a friend to fall back on to fill in as well. Awesome. Yeah, the learning curve can be a steep one. Thanks for visiting.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I've always thought that I do a pretty good job editing my own writing, but I do plan on using the services of a friend who's a trained editor when I finally get a book put together. I don't write fiction (hyperbole maybe, but not fiction) so I know there would be a lot to learn if I were to wander into that realm. Looks like some really great resources here!


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