There are several basic self-help books out there for amateur writers, and I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this one before a fellow writer used this book to point out some of my own misdeeds. Since then, Self-Editing has become my go-to book for basic things like point of view, the mechanics of dialogue, avoiding dreaded exposition, and other building blocks of the writer’s trade.
Recently, I was struggling with inner monologue for my characters (I don’t use it a lot and I should), and I looked online for answers. Imagine my surprise when someone said the best definition and application is chapter 7 of Self-Editing. Since I rarely put this book back in its place on the shelf because it’s my reference manual for everything I’m not sure about, I checked and chapter 7 gave me the answers I was looking for.
This book discusses each topic in a separate chapter, providing examples (sometimes the before and after are too much), a checklist, and some exercises. I found the exercises to be very helpful (not always the case in these self-help books) and completed most of them. Apparently, I skipped the inner monologue chapter. The authors also provide exercise results they’ve finished.
I found the book very accessible and easy to understand. Writery terms are explained well and in just enough depth to give me a practical understanding of the material. The chapter on Proportion I found extremely helpful as it deals with pacing problems which we all have but are hard to identify and correct. As I mentioned, Self-Editing is a quick reference for something I need clarified.
Things that weren’t so helpful were some of the examples. They take up a lot of space and had subjective results. How they “fixed” a problem (usually an example from their workshops) might not be the way I’d approach it. So, I skimmed a lot of these “We’ll show you how to do it” samples. They might be helpful to someone unclear with the explanation they’ve given.
Still, I’m wearing out my copy and use it all the time to critique other writers’ work. I probably should get the latest addition. I never loan out my battered copy for fear of not getting it returned, but I recommend it to fellow writers often.