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I started reading this book about four years ago shortly after completing a novel. Then, I thought it was interesting but unimportant. Four novels (and a lot of good advice) later, I think it's brilliant.


The authors are not trying to make you a better writer, they are trying to make you a saleable writer in today's climate. Many of the great works of the past would not have made it through the modern editorial process (they give many examples of this). Quite possibly, in the future, the rules may change again. But, for now, Browne and King teach you the process of getting your novel into a shape that an agent or a publisher's reader will want to look at twice.

This isn't just (or even mainly) about getting rid of adverbs and 'showing not telling', which you can find on any 'advice for authors' website. Browne and King give a balanced picture of all the areas that might trouble your prospective publisher. The chapter on Proportion is especially important, particularly since the subject is often overlooked.

Actually editing your book using the checklists presented here will be a fairly painful process for most writers. Browne and King do their best to get us over that with frequent examples from their own practise, as well as exercises where you can get your teeth into someone else's work before starting on your own.

You may disagree with some, or all, of the things they advise. However, this is not a book about becoming a great writer or producing great fiction, but about overcoming the common issues which generate the all-too-familiar "we're sorry, but we couldn't see this fitting with one of our lists" letters.

Strongly recommended if you really want to be published.
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on 29 September 2012
As many reviewers have already testified, this is a very useful book for aspiring fiction writers hoping to get into print. The advice is generally sound, and the examples of what or what not to do are mostly clear and well-chosen. At the price, its excellent value for money.

A couple of minor criticisms. The book is written - perhaps to some degree unconsciously - for North American readers and possibly even a particular class of reader. That's not to accuse the book of snobbery, or even exclusiveness, but there's a lingering sense that something is missing.

The well-hammered points about the changing tastes in literary styles are not to be ignored, but don't necessarily apply equally all places, all traditions nor all genres. Examples abound of writers who have done the opposite of what the authors recommend, and pulled it off.

As for the cartoons, they are desperately poor - poky drawings accompanied by captions that resemble the lost wanderings of a dwarf species of spider - a kind of visual example of prose that is so bad you don't even attempt to read what it has to say. Oops.
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VINE VOICEon 21 April 2015
Right from the start this book is both helpful and useful. There is a brief introduction, which sets the scene, and then it's straight into the meat of the book. Chapter 1 is Show and Tell. The authors explain what this is and demonstrate the difference with some useful examples. This involves giving a passage which does not quite work and then showing how it could be improved by changing, removing or adding words. This works well as it is clear to see the differences and how they were achieved. There are also exercises to do at the end of each chapter. The suggested answers to these are at the back of the book.

Each chapter uses a similar format and is equally as good. Chapters cover, dialogue, interior monologue, using beats, and point of view, amongst others. I would say it covers all those areas which many writers find difficult.

The one thing I did find slightly jarring was the cartoons. I do not feel they added anything of value and the writing which accompanies them is difficult to read. The book is excellent without them.

Whilst more experienced writers may find they know much of the advice given in this book already, those newer to the craft will find it to be useful. I would suggest it is read before starting the first novel. Once the first draft is written then it should come into play to help shape and develop the novel. Overall, an excellent book which I can highly recommend
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on 13 November 2016
At times I felt another title would have been more appropriate such as 'How to Write Good Dialogue' for that is both the strength and the weakness of this book. I am disappointed in it for the following reasons. 1. It is just another book on writing fiction and not specifically on editing. 2. The huge number of sometimes lengthy extracts from novels make it seem almost like literary criticism. It also makes for tedious reading. 3. The style is somewhat hectoring, especially in the opening chapters - this is how you should be writing - there is no other way. 4. The type of fiction used as illustration tends towards crime, thrillers, suspense etc. Literary fiction just does not get a look in. 5. At the start of an otherwise good chapter on dialogue the authors give the game away when they claim that "the first thing [an acquisition editor does] is find a scene with some dialogue. If the dialogue doesn't work the manuscript gets bounced." Are these people really so narrow-minded as that. Narrative fiction is a perfectly good and valid genre but the authors give it no place. There are helpful chapters but do not expect too much from this book.
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on 4 July 2015
This really is a mixed bag for a book about editing. On one level it tells writers what to look out for in their texts, but on another level, it tells writers how to write in the same way Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering the Craft does. Is this a book about how to write or how to approach editing after you have written? Judging by the title you would expect the latter but unfortunately this is not the case. If you haven't bought any other books on editing then you may well get something out of this. If you have bought Steering the Craft, like me, then you'll want to avoid it.
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on 21 May 2014
I've always been good at English grammar but being able to put grammatically correct sentences together is not the same as constructing carefully honed fiction.
I deliberately decided to buy this book towards the end of the writing process.
This first draft is little more than the place where you get your ideas of the story and characters written down; very little of this will get through to the end product The second draft is where you correct most of the mistakes you realised your story had when you finished the first draft. The third draft should begin to look like the finished story but it's when you're on the fourth (or fifth) rewrite the advice in this book is needed.
The final draft is where you require advice as to how to ensure your narrative is throughly entertaining and keeps your readers hooked and turning the pages. It is at this point your book must contain believable characters that leap from the page conversing with passages of coruscating dialogue. This book can help you do that, I only wish I'd read it when I wrote my first novel.
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on 4 November 2014
A great little book, mercifully short (when you exclude the exercises), full of wise advice and well-written.

If you are a novice writer, you may not appreciate what skill is needed. This eminently practical guide tells you about common pitfalls and how to do better, for example: if the emotion isn't shown, re-write the passage; cut background information to the bare minimum; read every part aloud to find infelicities and the rhythm; interior monologue must be in the character's words; root out adverbs ... and so on.

The advice is conveyed not in lists but in readable prose, with generally good examples (though focusing on middlebrow American writers).
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on 2 August 2013
This book seems to provide a very good overview and insight into the editing process. How much of it can be adopted by the novice to self-edit their work is another matter. However it does provide some good tips that will be of value to those new to the writing discipline and dare I say it to some already published authors.

At the very least by following their more practical tips you will improve your manuscript and then if you choose to hire in some help the process will be simpler, less fraught and less costly. Even if you don't get further editing help the tightening up of the writing and focus on better ways to present your work will make it more suitable for the self-publishing route.

It is true the authors have the "temerity" to suggest improvements to venerated authors, but as these are mostly for books past copyright this should be viewed as a sensible update for modern tastes and styles.

So given one cannot expect a single book to make anyone a professional editor it deserves its 5 star rating.
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on 26 April 2017
I think this is a book that every aspiring writer should have by their bed or on their desk. It's an incredibly helpful guide to what to look out for in your manuscript and I know I will be using it when I get to revising my latest book. I am recommending it to all my writer friends.
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Before reading this book I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew how to make my manuscript irresistible to publishers. I thought I knew how to edit my own books.

I'm a published author, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. On every page of this well-written informative book, I learned something new. I learned it from someone who knows exactly how to convey to aspiring writers what they need to do to polish their manuscripts in order to make sure they have a firm skeleton on which to build their story. And so that their characters have qualities readers care about. And above all, so that the prose sparkles from beginning to end.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to every beginning writer, and also to established writers. It's sometimes reassuring to know you're on the right track, but it's also good to find out something new that you hadn't thought of before. Something that could make your book unputdownable.
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