Welcome to the web page for Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, which since its publication in 1993 quickly became—and remains, hands down—the bestselling title on how writers can edit their own work. The best way to learn the craft of editing is from another editor, and both my co-author Dave King and I have been editing manuscripts for decades. I’ve been at it for over fifty years, and The Editorial Department has been around for over thirty years (since 1980).
The many literary agents we work with keep telling us that publishers expect submissions to be pre-edited. In fact, many agents expect pre-edited submissions to them. You can, of course, work with an independent editor to bring your manuscript to its fullest potential and fine-tune the final draft. But first you want to take it as far as you can yourself, in the process strengthening your skills as a writer. Self-Editing teaches craft, not plot and character development or how to organize nonfiction content. Its focus is on stylistic mechanics: how to handle dialogue, point of view, exposition, character introduction, and so on. Not only do we tell you what you need to know, with plenty of examples, we give you checklists and exercises at the end of each chapter, and a comprehensive test covering all the self-editing principles (challenging but great fun to take), all of which will help you lock in what you’ve learned.
We’ve made sure Self-Editing is entertaining to read. And the lessons are lightened by the great New Yorker cartoonist George Booth. So what happens if you not only read Self-Editing but use it, checking your chapters against the lists, doing the exercises, and taking the test? Whether you’re a good writer, a great writer, or a not-so-great writer, you’ll have increased—dramatically—the effectiveness of what you’ve written. Your prose will read professionally—you won’t look like an amateur. And this in itself will give you an edge. If you’re hiring an independent editor, you’ll save money. If you’re trying to land an agent, you’ll have a better chance. In any case, you’ll be a stronger writer.
About Renni Browne
Renni Browne has been editing fiction and nonfiction for nearly fifty years. Before she became an editor for Scribner’s in 1966, she was a copy editor for Time-Life books, co-author of a novel, and assistant fiction editor for Woman’s Day. When she left Scribner’s she worked part-time for a paperback publisher and a literary agent while reviewing books for Kirkus and Library Journal.
In 1968 she became senior editor at Stein & Day, where she stayed seven years until she became a senior editor at William Morrow. Not allowed to take the time needed to edit the books she acquired, she dropped out of mainstream publishing in 1978 and founded The Editorial Department in 1980.