Geek Girl Learns…

From Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, and The 10% Solution by Ken Rand

A catch up post from April

Two easy reads!

Overview, and an Apology

I’ll be honest with you, gentlebeings, I am skipping ahead in my posting schedule so that I can get in as many writing books before my class on August 24th as I possibly can. Please be patient with me, and I’ll hold off for a while after this!

Now, on to the books. Self-editing for Fiction Writers is one of the classics, and The 10% Solution intrigued with it’s promise of short cuts to editing. With fun cartoons and easy to understand prose, Self-editing made grammar rules and tried-but-truisms like “Show vs Tell” accessible to the busy writer. The 10% Solution was a bit of a one trick pony, but it did show quickly and easily how to cut 10% off of any manuscript with a few simple steps.

The Good

I liked the writing style of Self-editing. I liked it a lot. I’m not one to read many grammar books, as they tend to put me to sleep, but this one held my interest from the get go, and it is more than just a grammar book. It goes through things like pacing and interior monologue to capture aspect of writing that are specifically for fiction. That focus makes it valuable for writing novels.

Ken Rand’s 10% Solution is a fast read. At 84 pages, I was done within an hour. He was clear and concise in his prose, and the technique he offered was one that I will most likely use. It is kind of a finishing technique, for after we have solved all of the problems both James Scott Bell (last week) and Self-editing gave us techniques for. As such, it complements the other books well.

Fun cartoons in Self-editing for Fiction Writers!

The Bad

Published 15 years ago, Self-editing can have a few things that are out of date, but the second edition has been updated from the version published in 1993. Also, the chapters build on each other much more than in James Scott Bell’s Revision & Editing, which means that we might have trouble just skipping to chapters that we need. All the information is there, but it is not as accessible for those of us who just want to read about a specific thing.

Of those 85 pages in The 10% Solution, less than half are about the solution itself. Now, there does need to be some background information, some defining of terms, but for a book about cutting out the fat, I could have used a little less fat!

The Ugly

Self-editing– not much, really. There are some rules that lead to awkward writing, like eliminating every adverb we use, but that’s a matter of changing our thinking, not one we should blithely ignore. And the authors help us through how to eliminate those adverbs, and when we should leave them in. So, I’m willing to forgive them.

The 10% Solution– Ken Rand gives us his entire history as a writer. I’m not interested in that, and it feels like filler even as I read it. I don’t need to know how he failed at humor writing at first, just how he succeeded. For a short book, it took a remarkably long time to get to the point. It looks like a short, cheap book, and in some ways it is.

The Verdict

I will be keeping both books. Even though there is filler in Rand’s book, it has a good technique for making those final cuts. (No, I will not tell you the technique. Buy the book. Or come to my class on August 24th!) As for Self-editing for Fiction Writers, it has enough of a different perspective from James Scott Bell that I will be keeping the book, if only to compare the two when I am editing.


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