April 20, 2010

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

A member of my local SCBWI group suggested buying this book and I’m glad she did. (Thanks, Rahma!)

There’s a lot to like. I found the chapter on Point of View especially helpful. In my first book (shelved for the time being), I had a tendency to jump around heads during a scene instead of focusing on a single viewpoint and letting other characters reveal themselves through action and dialogue.

Before reading Browne and King, I didn't consider using POV for descriptive passages. Because I write in the third person, I assumed my descriptions would be rather distant and factual, maybe spiced up with some poetic imagery. Now I’m learning the importance of letting readers experience settings and action through the perspective of the characters. Even more significant, these observations will ring most true when they're written in the language the characters themselves would use. Eureka!

I realize this marks me as a novice, but we all have to start somewhere. Wherever you are in your writer’s journey,  I heartily suggest consulting this book. I think you’ll find it immensely rewarding.


  1. Kathryn, lots of writers, even seasoned ones, struggle with point of view. You are certainly not alone! I'm excited to read this book and pass it along to my writer friends. :-)

  2. I have this book, too. It's great.

    Lynnette Labelle

  3. POV is a tricky thing to pull off. I've liked my fair share of first person POV-narratives; however, whenever I open a novel written in the first person, I have a momentary judgment of the author taking the easy way out. I must have read it somewhere and it stuck with me.

  4. It sounds like a great book, and very valuable information on POV!

    My last book (first published) was written in first person and the voice came through really strongly. This time around I'm back into third person and trying to make it just as strong a voice. I found after the practice in 1st it's actually much easier.

    It's easier if you stick to a close 3rd as well, instead of flitting from character to character.

  5. Anna: It's good to know others struggle with POV, too.

    Lynnette: It is a great book, and I've only highlighted one chapter!

    Stephanie: I do prefer 3rd person POV. I think first-person POV can work, but it's difficult to get it just right.

    Heidi: I don't think I'll be flitting this time around, although I do want to explore both the protagonist's AND the antagonist's perspectives.

  6. This is one of my favorites, Kathryn. Fantastic book to read before editing a ms and a great reference during the editing process. It's very straightforward which many books on writing are not.

    When I'm critiquing, I always mention if 3rd person POV slips to omniscient for descriptive passages. I probably shouldn't, but I hate being ripped from the story.

  7. VR: I've already dog-eared and underlined my copy. I love the checklists!
    Funny how those omniscient slips still pop up in my drafts, but at least now I recognize them when I edit.

  8. If you like that book, you might like the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It really helps find a lot of the no-no's that Browne & King mention.

  9. Janine: I've heard of AutoCrit, but I don't know if the site is secure or not.

  10. Oh I love this book. I can't say enough good about it. :)

  11. POV is difficult. I like first person because it sweeps the reader up into the main character's world very quickly. It removes the distancing that comes with third person.

    We are all novices, Kathryn. All of us are learning as we go -- like Indiana Jones

    Except we don't have a script to work from or a director to yell, "Cut!" when things get out of hand, Roland

  12. Angela: I know, I refer to it again and again!
    Roland: I haven't tried first-person POV. Yes, it does bring some intimacy, but it has limits as well.

  13. I'm glad you found this book useful too. It's been such a valuable tool for me! Browne and King seemed to have really hit the high points of how to help us make our writing stronger.

    It's entertaining as well. I read it straight through the first time; then again more thoroughly, so it would sink in. I still keep it close at hand when I run into problems.


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