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5.0 out of 5 stars Strategies for Editing Your Own Writing, 4 Jun 2011
This review is from: The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself (Kindle Edition)
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. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Adam Thorpe's Ulverton reveal the working relationships between these authors and their editors. Interviews placed between chapters convey the essence of artistic evaluation and constructive criticism. The interviews with artists and filmmakers teach us much about editing strategies that apply across creative media. Concrete thinkers who equate editing with proofreading and expect lists of commonly misspelled words will be disappointed. The successful reader must understand and apply Susan Bell's lessons at a more abstract level.

Susan Bell has much to say about the ongoing struggle between writers and editors for ownership and control. She advises assertiveness and restraint to both. Writers should look courageously at their work, cutting away the excess verbiage that smothers their very best ideas and language--and should defend these hard-won nuggets. Editors must challenge writers to see what does not work, then empower them to rework without undue editorial micromanaging. "The function of an editor is to be a reader," claims Gardner Botsford, as he introduces the last chapter. Susan Bell insists that "...an editor doesn't just read, he reads well, and reading well is a creative, powerful act." Her book attempts to place an editorial presence in the mind of each writer.

This book is highly recommended to writers who want to improve their work and their work process. It is beneficial to writers of both fiction and nonfiction.
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