Susan Bell teaches writers what editors do, hoping this will reduce frustration for both. She hopes that "[t]his book will not eliminate the need for an outside editor, but it will minimize it. When writers learn how to better edit themselves, editors will not be out of jobs; rather they will be working with texts at a more advanced stage, and their work will be less an act of excavation than one of refinement."
The book's first chapter teaches writers eleven strategies for gaining perspective on what they have written--and grown overly close to. These strategies range from abstract perspective shifting to physical techniques, such as hanging the pages of a chapter on a clothesline to observe the pattern of text across the pages. The second chapter tells authors how to evaluate their writing at the "macro" level, focusing on organization, structure and the sequence and flow of ideas. The third chapter dives to the micro level, helping writers with subtle language choices in sentence-by-sentence writing. We learn to evaluate writing for its repetition, redundancy, clarity, authenticity, continuity, and other well-chosen principles. Bell's fourth chapter presents several extended case studies of writers and their editors working together. The fifth and final chapter traces the development of editing as a profession, from changes medieval scribes introduced as they copied ancient texts to the uneasy, commercially-constrained partnership between modern writers and their time-starved editors.
Foremost among the book's strengths are the frequent before-and-after editing examples and the interviews with writers and editors. Numerous excerpts from F.Read more ›
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This book is superbly written, and I'd say an absolute must for any aspiring writer who has a reasonable amount of self-respect. 'The Artful Edit' is not just very informative but also immensely engaging - Susan Bell knows how to tell a story! and so she has managed to turn what was, let's face it, a completely turgid subject, into a veritable page-turner. I started the book as a would-be writer looking for clever tips, but by the end (and, well, unavoidably so) I ended up a much better reader for sure. After this, your favourite books will never be the same again; you will become a lot more appreciative but also much more critical of everything you read, watch or see, fiction or non-.
Apart from an excellent short history of editing & editors, the book mainly refers to American writers, artists, and editors. But don't let that put you off; the morals of the stories and Bell's basic principles are universally applicable. After all, she's talking about heavy weights such as the people at 'The New Yorker' here... We are also allowed a peep here and there into the world of editing in other art forms, such as film and professional photography, or we are told a brilliant quote from a celebrated dancer/choreographer who felt, after a mere 37 years, that she had finally mastered her craft. 37 years! Wonderful stuff.
A perfectly literary offering, the book nevertheless offers practical advice which is far superior to everything I have read in the creative writing and self-editing area. Other books on the subject tend to be quite hazy and/or glutinous with self-promotion, but here we have clear and workable, step-by-step instructions on, for example, exactly what the 'Show, don't tell!Read more ›
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