The Book That Every Writer Editing Their Book Needs to Read

About two weeks ago I reviewed Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. I strongly recommended Larry’s book to everyone who was starting to write their novel.

Then, wouldn’t you know, in less than two weeks I found the perfect companion piece to go with Larry’s book. It’s called The Art and Craft of Fiction by Victoria Mixon, one of my fellow Top Ten Bloggers for Writers. I actually volunteered to read her book and review it because I had already fallen in love with her writing style. I grew to respect the value and time she puts into each blog post. It’s incredibly rare to find a blogger with such skill, and not only that:  a blogger that consistently delivers quality.

Not to mention that Victoria has 30 years of experience as an editor, so I was eager to pick her brain in some form or another. Reading her book was the easiest and most straightforward way to go about doing that.

To start the review, I’m going to mention three characteristics about Victoria’s book that may seem besides the point, but in retrospect you will see that they are not:

1. Her writing is absolutely gorgeous.

2. I adore her writing style and voice–and I’ve never used the word “adore” to describe anybody, or any thing for that matter.

3. At certain points in the book she is laugh-out-loud funny–and trust me: this is no easy feat when you are talking about editing.

Now, if you think that these three characteristics are not that important when it comes to reviewing a book about editing, then you’re not that smart of a writer. Because if you’re going to take advice from an editor, her writing better be more than just good–it better be great. Also, the editor better be able to knock your socks off with her style and voice. And finally, if you’re going to spend hours reading a book on editing–one of the most uninteresting subjects in writing if placed in the wrong hands–you better thank sweet Buddha if the author of that book is also funny. Otherwise, get ready to tear your eyeballs out of your sockets.

(Cue the angels singing.)

Thankfully, we have Victoria. Victoria displays the best of all these three qualities: impeccable writing, solid voice and style, and a refreshing sense of humor. Reading her book feels as if you have been invited into her kitchen to have a conversation over wine and crackers. There is a comfortable intimacy with her writing, and you feel like all she’s doing is telling you funny story, after funny story, and before you know it, both of you are up all night talking and laughing about what seems to be nothing in particular.

Finally, it’s 5 a.m. You’re tipsy and you have to take a cab home. You wake up the next morning and you say to yourself:

“Great Scott! Did I just learn how to edit my book?”

Then you jump out of your bed and scream:

“I did! I did! How did she do it? How did she know my name? The devil must have told her! Nooo! There’s a crack in the floor! ARGHHHH! I’M FALL-ING!”

You have no idea how she did it. But you don’t care. You know you’ve been tricked into taking medicine, but now that you’re cured, you don’t mind being tricked. You thought you were just having a good ol’ time goofing off, but you were really acquiring a deeper understanding of the art and craft of fiction. What really happened when Victoria invited you into her kitchen was that she was inviting you to delve deeper into the mind of an editor, until you felt enriched and more confident from the experience.

Victoria’s book illustrates the three different kinds of editing (you didn’t know there were three different kinds did ya?): Copy Editing, Line Editing, and Developmental Editing. She goes into detail with each, and with each she offers insights that are incredibly useful and truly fundamental to our understanding of what makes great fiction great.

Now, before I go on, I would like to give some constructive criticism:

1. Although I enjoyed “Book II” of this book–where Victoria leaves the subject of editing and goes into broader topics–it seemed like I was entering the beginning of a different book on writing, not just a different part of a book on writing. I really wanted to wrap my head around the three types of editing on their own, and leave it there for sometime, before I went on to enjoy “Book II” as its own separate book.

2. I loved all the examples in the book, only there were times when it was hard to tell the difference between the examples Victoria was giving, and her commentary on those examples. Creating a “grey box” for each example would have really helped the reader navigate through this very illuminating text.

3. A vocabulary list is missing at the end. The reader is being introduced to a lot of new concepts in the book and it would be extremely helpful to have all these concepts all in one place at the end, just for quick reference.

But other than that, I can sincerely say that not only did I enjoy reading this book, but I found that it was crucial to my writing career. I found it empowering as a writer to know exactly how a professional editor thinks and what they are looking for when they edit a novel.

Victoria, like Larry, has made me a smarter writer, and  I don’t know of any other better companion piece to Larry Brooks Story Engineering than Victoria Mixon’s The Art and Craft of Fiction. I recommend picking up the former if you have just started writing and the latter once you are at the editing stage. Although, in truth, each book will be incredibly helpful at anytime during your writing process.

Now, if only there was a third book that would create a powerful trifecta–a book inspired by holistic, self-help literature that teaches its readers how to balance the writing process with their mind, body, and spirit, thereby creating peace and well-being in their life and in their writing. Maybe something called… The Guts 2 Type.

Nah, that’d just be stupid.

much deeply felt affection,

Ollin

Click here to buyThe Art and Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual”

What books on editing do you recommend? Please share with us in the comments below.

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26 comments on “The Book That Every Writer Editing Their Book Needs to Read

  1. Martha Miller says:

    “Double Your Creative Power”, a short but powerful little book by Sid Stebel is the perfect companion to the writing craft books you’ve reviewed. Sid challenges us to use our subconscious to come up with the secret story our heart wants us to write, and he does it with simple language, plenty of examples, and a friendly, almost fatherly tone that makes it easy to read. Ray Bradbury hails Sid Stebel “The Best Writing Teacher in the World”, and Sid’s book proves it.

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks Martha,

      But if only that third book was written by another Top Ten Blog for Writers… maybe someone named Mollin Orales.

      Nah you’re right. I’m going with Sid’s book instead.😉

  2. Larry says:

    Ollin, the door’s open on that third book. In fact, you just opened it. Who better to write it than… you? I covered basics and mechanics, Victoria covered editing and polishing and nuance… now you can cover the experiential, emotional and spiritual journey required. Dive in, dude. You’ve earned your chops to make this happen. Larry

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks Larry. THAT means a lot coming from you. We’ll, I kinda was just joking. We’ll see what my readers think about it.

      Readers: do you agree with Larry? Should I write that third book in the trifecta?

  3. karrijustina says:

    I have to say, you’ve convinced me, Ollin. I always enjoy Victoria’s style!🙂

    • Ollin says:

      I’m glad I did. At least for me I’m keeping Larry and Victoria’s book with me for years to come. I hope you enjoy it yourself.

  4. Christina says:

    Sounds like a must-have writing book. I already ordered Larry’s book (which is great) so Victoria’s will come in handy during the arduous editing process.

    Thanks for sharing all your writing tools with us:)

  5. Ollin, thank you so much for the kind review! It is heartwarming.

    And thank you for the suggestions. Yes, we had difficulty with the insert quotes—my publisher knows how to do it, but we’ve had reservations about the conversion of such complex formatting to ePubs and Kindle, as their conversion tools can be a little tricky. We are, in fact, creating a new edition right now to correct a few typos (does an editor ever stop editing their own work?), so I’ll talk to him again about your idea for grey boxes.

    I’m also working right now on the sequels, which I’ve had to break into two books: one on Developmental Issues (The Art & Craft of Story) and one on Line Issues (The Art and Craft of Prose). These will be purely Book I types. I’m done talking about the professional aspects of being a writer—it’s important for writers to know there’s no red carpet, but things are in such upheaval now with ebooks and POD I’m going to wait to see what happens before I write about that aspect anymore. And I’m done talking about Copy Issues, too—there are lots of great books on grammar and punctuation already out there.

    From here on out, I’m just going deeper and deeper into the whole, extraordinary world of creating fiction—this art of storytelling through the craft of the written word.

  6. Lisa Mercado-Fernandez says:

    Wonderful review! And why wouldn’t it be, Victoria is amazing, and I know first hand because she is my editor. I would like to say she’s only mine but unfortunately I have to share her with the rest of the literary world.
    Thanks for a great review.
    Lisa

  7. Jacqui says:

    I have so read many books on self-editing and writing that my lips are tired. I swore I would purchase no more and now, I must.

    OK, this is really really the last one (and it sounds like I won’t need anything else).

    • Ollin says:

      I don’t feel like I need any other book on editing and novel structure other than Larry’s and Victoria’s books.

      The only other books I feel like I need is a book on literary agents, a book written by publishers, or someone who actually publishes books, and a book on marketing your book. Hope you find it helpful.

      To all readers: let me know what you think of the book when you’re finished!

      • Ollin, my friend Wendy Burt-Thomas wrote the 2009 Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters. She’s a right smart cookie.

        As far as a book on publishing, well, good luck! As Larry can attest, the publishing industry is right now in the throes of complete transmogrification, so what was once a perfectly solid non-steroidal game is now being treated like a world of pop-flies. It’ll settle down eventually. . .but in the meantime anyone writing books on what it is and where it’s going is just whistling Dixie.

        If you want to keep up with where thing are moving, try the O’Reilly Media Times of Change website. My publisher/husband and I know lots the folks at O’Reilly—the biggest independent technical publisher out there—and they’re doing a good job of keeping abreast of the changes in both nonfiction and fiction fields.

        • Ollin says:

          Thank you so much Victoria. Awesome.

          • Just saw this morning Jane Friedman self-published a book on the distant future of publishing April 1. She talks about it on Therese’s site. April 1.

            Actually, I’m slated to blog about the state of publishing next Monday. I do get asked about it pretty frequently.

  8. Hey! Just bought the book through Amazon! Yay me! Thanks for words of wisdom, Ollin…I have been writing a lot of articles and procrastinating on my novel. Hopefully this will jump start me and get me in the right direction.

    Much thanks..

    Darlene

  9. Shane Arthur says:

    Book Proposals That Sell was a great book.

  10. tahliaN says:

    Thanks for this Olin, I think it’s the book I need. I have a handle on the other 2 aspects of the trifecta, but the third one certainly needs to be written and you are a good man for the job. What value is writing really if our heart and souls aren’t in it?

  11. Carolee says:

    Ollin, Carol Tice recommended your site to me. Your fantastic review caused me to order Victoria’s book. Anyone wanting to set up a website should, besides your own, check out hers!

    I’m polishing my already-completed novel–now THAT feels good to write. Ollin, your recommendation came at the perfect time for me. Thanks Victoria for writing it.

    Carolee

    • Ollin says:

      Hey Carolee,

      Well how nice of Carol to recommend you to me. Carol has guested on my blog before, and my readers do love her. And I’m constantly sharing her excellent articles via twitter. I hope you like the book, let me know what you think! Oh and Victoria would probably love it if you left a review on amazon for her.

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