Book Review: Revision & Self-Editing

Last month, I reviewed James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure. Just as with his previous book on writing, Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Finished Novel is a volume filled with tips and illustrations that particularly help the visual writer, this time focused on polishing your novel for submission.

Maybe it's the trial lawyer in Bell that encourages exhibits. With diagrams that show three-act structure, and mythic structure, layers of the story and character conflict, intensity scales and character arc templates, writers will be able to visualize what they're learning. There are even diagrams for each type of point of view.

Each of Bell's points are backed up by real-life examples from books or movies. These help the reader "see" what they've learned in "3D".

The book is divided into two parts. First, self-editing, where twelve chapters cover each of the key aspects of a novel that must be examined. This half of the book is like an intensive course in fiction writing, and a great overview if you can't afford a book on each of the topics.

The second half of the book focuses on revision. Bell explains the how, the why, and the when of revision, and includes The Ultimate Revisions Checklist in the book. Each chapter, in part one and part two, ends with exercises that will help writers apply what they've learned. Bell provides the exercise answers in the back.

Check out Bell's website, where you can download a sample of his newest book, The Art of War for Writers (click the News tab). Bell blogs at The Kill Zone with six other mystery and thriller writers. His latest post was excellent, titled Just Go, where he talks about how he learned to write (and no, he wasn't a gifted writer out of the gate). Having read a few of his novels, that's encouraging.

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