Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Revision and Self-Editing

The follow-up to James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure is now available from Writer's Digest Books. Revision and Self-Editing focuses on "techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel." Lots of good stuff here, folks. Not that I'd expect any less from Jim.

Jim describes self-editing as "the ability to know what makes fiction work, so when you actually write (as in a first draft) you're crafting salable fiction." Revision, then, is "a systematic approach to the whole when you have a full manuscript and have to fix it."

Part I on self-editing includes chapters on the subjects of characters, plot and structure, point of view, scenes, dialogue, beginnings/middles/ends, show vs. tell, voice and style, setting and description, exposition, and theme. The chapters end with a Key Points list and numerous exercises. The plot and structure chapter is a streamlined version of his previous book on the subject, including the mythic and three-act structures, and Jim's own LOCK system.

Part II covers revision. Chapter 16 is particularly helpful, with "the ultimate revision checklist." This checklist takes a look at the subjects covered in self-editing with specific ideas for strengthening each aspect. I do like the fact that Jim takes chapters 13 through 15 to prepare the writer for revising. The revision process requires skill and knowledge of the craft, but it can also be quite a head trip to tear apart what you've already worked so hard to write. It requires, as Jim says, taking the "long view" that revision will enhance the story and ultimately make you a better writer.

Throughout this book Jim uses lots of examples from published novels. The book is easy to read, with lists and graphs, yet the concepts are not shallow. If I weren't on such a hard deadline right now I'd love to sit down with this book and slowly go through it, doing all the exercises. I know I'd learn a lot, and it would get my mind working on future ideas. As it is, I'll read through the book a little at a time. Or perhaps flip to a certain page that might help me get over a block in my current wip.

Revision and Self-editing--highly recommended.


Richard Mabry said...

Emerging briefly from lurkdom to second your review. This book is a great companion to PLOT AND STRUCTURE. And only Jim Bell could make a subject like this fun. Thanks for calling this gem to our attention.

Cara Putman said...

I love this book and can't wait to apply it to my next novel. It's so practical!