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,
Click here to buy “The 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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