Great for students studying English or Creative-Writing. Very easy to understand, giving you great depths of insight at the same time. Macro/micro editing detail is spot on. May help if you read 'The Great Gatsby' first, as Bell makes many references to Fitzgerald.
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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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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, not exactly an exciting subject, into a veritable page-turner. I'd recommend this to everyone, not just the would-be writer looking for useful and clever tips (which you'll find in here), but also to those who want to become better readers. 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 as an occupation/business, the book then 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 heavyweights 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. We are also explained clearly that, sadly, gone are the days when Scott Fitzgerald's editor spent an eternity coaxing 'The Great Gatsby' into the masterpiece it became - today, writers must be self-reliant, or fail.
A perfectly literary offering in its own right, 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!' mantra actually means, with extensive, before-and-after examples from no other than 'The Great Gatsby'. And equally sterling examples on: dialogue, how to avoid repetition and redundancy, how to ensure continuity, how to create authenticity and bring internal logic to both your characters and plot. And much more. Impressive, and all incredibly useful. Oh, and if you've ever scratched your head wondering exactly what's the difference between literary and non-literary fiction, you'll find in Bell's book plenty of answers (though not explicitly. It's just that she deals exclusively with the former. For excellent and more beginner-level instructions on how to write more commercial fiction, I recommend The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and Write to be Published). If, on the other hand, you want to understand how literature should be written, I recommend every single word on books in The War Against Cliche.
The flip side about 'The Artful Edit' is, of course, that as as a reader, from now on, you will be able to spot lazy writing/editing and incongruences, and sniff a cheap trick from miles! All in all, this is a book highly recommended for intelligent writers and clever readers alike.
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