A “How To” book that gives useful guidance. (Honestly!)

Books about creative writing are as the sands on the seashore, and to the writer, many of them are about as much use. I’d never tell a fellow-author “Don’t waste your time reading book X, Y or Z” but neither would I recommend most of these self-help guides. Some are better than others, but I suspect we’ve all reacted to them in the same ways: (1) I know this already; (2) that idea might work for you but it doesn’t work for me; or, rarely, (3) Oh, I hadn’t thought of that – I’ll give it a try.

However, what I’m about to recommend isn’t a creative writing book. It’s a guide to self-editing of the book you’ve already written, and it adopts a market-aware perspective not a literary critic’s viewpoint. Its overall objective is to help you turn what might be a good book into a better, potentially marketable one. Although it’s explicitly aimed at the beginning (inexperienced and presumably unpublished) writer, it’s good for the rest of us, too. It’s short, focused, clear, optimally organised, entirely practical, and – need I add – written in impeccable English. Its author is the lady who runs the literary consultancy I asked to evaluate my surreal novel manuscript. She sent me a copy, free of charge, to compensate (as she put it) for the long delay in preparing their report on National Cake Day in Ruritania.

Whether you’re an experienced and published author or a newcomer to fiction writing, I strongly recommend you to invest in a copy of this book: Lorena Goldsmith, Self-Editing Fiction that Sells, How To Books Ltd., Oxford, UK, 2013. ISBN 978 1 84528 504 3. The book comprises seven chapters, the titles of which speak for themselves: Getting the plot right; Improving the narrative; Achieving a good style; Perfecting characterisation; Crafting memorable scenes and atmosphere; Elements of copy-editing and basic copy preparation; Getting published.

My copy isn’t on a bookshelf, it’s on my desk and likely to stay there. I keep re-reading relevant passages and applying the end-of-chapter exercises as I work on my new manuscript.

In my next blog I’ll explain why I value Lorena’s book so highly. I suspect it reached me at the best possible moment – but I’d have been glad of a copy whenever and however I’d acquired it.

And before you ask – we live in such a cynical world! – no, I don’t have any financial or other interest in Self-Editing Fiction that Sells, except that it’s going to help me and many other writers to progress with our work!

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