01 February 2013

My Take on "Revision and Self-Editing for Publication"

After taking James Scott Bell's free webinar, "Novel Revision: Craft a Story Readers Can't Put Down", I bought his Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd edition.

As I've yet to embrace the revision side of writing, I was hoping that this book would give me some tools to make revising less hellish.

Here's My Take on the book...

The majority of the book, Part 1: Self-Editing, contains chapters on story fundamentals like characters, scenes, dialogue, and exposition. Bell briefly describes each topic, then offers advice on how to tighten, deepen, or heighten the tension in your story based on the most common mistakes that writers make. Each chapter ends with a summary and exercises to develop your craft for that story element.

In the Character chapter, Bell suggests creating a Character Voice Journal. This free-form journal would be used to capture a character's stream of consciousness,  to develop a unique voice for a character. The idea of using a journal for a character was new to me and something that I plan on using in the future.

The rest of the book, Part 2: Revision, offers advice on how to tackle a revision. The last chapter contains "The Ultimate Revision Checklist." This checklist covers each of the story elements he touched on in Part 1 with questions to consider for each element and common fixes for problem areas.

Bell included something he calls The Three O questions, which revolve around Objective, Obstacle, and Outcome, and are designed to fix the worst scenes in a story. The questions require brainstorming and going beyond the obvious or easy solution to find unique O's to make the story fresh and unique. I can see this being a useful tool for my revisions to avoid predictable stories.

Much of Bell's advice has been covered in other writing craft books that I've read, and served as a great reminder. I appreciated his suggestions to correct common issues. I'll try out a few of them in my next revision and maybe while outlining my next story.

I wished that the Ultimate Revision Checklist was available as downloadable content. However, I typed a majority of the checklist so that I can have it on my computer and tablet for easy reference.

Did I get what I wanted from the book? No. I think I wanted a magic wand that would give me a way of revising that would be easy. But based on what I've experienced and seen in Bell's book, I'm realizing that revising isn't supposed to be effortless. (I just wish it wasn't so painful.)

Would I recommend the book to other writers? Yes. For new writers, it's a good overview of issues to look for with advice on how to tackle them. More experienced writers could use this book as a refresher and quick reference tool.

So that's My Take. Has anyone out there read or used this book? In the comments, give me Your Take, Let me know what worked, or didn't work, for you.

No comments: