This book opens with a somewhat pessimistic critique of the current publishing world, but it's not one that's unfounded. In truth, many books do seem to be rushed through with little editing; I often spot many errors and frankly, (and hopefully not to belabor a point) books by some authors seem to just get allowed through will little editing at all. (see 2312) As someone starting out in the publishing biz, I can't wait to have a professional editor look over my book and advise me on how best to achieve what I want. But in the current atmosphere, it's unlikely that a professional editor will ever get to my novel unless it's already in near-perfect shape. Unless, of course, you pay for it yourself.
But the introduction is whatever; lets get to the meat. This book has 12 chapters of varying length; in total the book is 262 pages long. The authors have a fairly lighthearted style that I appreciated, and they tell it fairly straight. Each chapter is filled with examples from workshops or previous clients' work, the majority of which is published. It's mostly just "fiction" rather than genre fiction, but they offer a sci-fi story up in there, and the advice is good for everyone. It covers all the basics of editing, starting with that most basic of basic but most important of all: Show and Tell.
Unless you're really just starting out, this chapter doesn't tell you anything you don't already know, but it does provide some good examples and explains exactly how showing is better than telling, and in what ways. There's times for showing and there's times for telling, and finding that balance is difficult. I found the book's advice to be refreshing and useful. At the end of each chapter, there are exercises (the "answers" are in the back -- the authors themselves admit that there is no real right or wrong, and some people may edit the selections better than they did.) where you occasionally edit the classics like Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby. These were actually pretty fun, and I found their answers insightful when compared to my own.
Of the chapters, I found "Dialogue Mechanics" and "Once is Usually Enough" to be the most pertinent to myself. They were all good, but these two showed a number of examples that instantly brought to mind sentences from my own books. In dialogue especially, I hate writing "said" over and over again, but as the authors point out, we don't actually even really read it. It's more punctuation than anything; you're just ascribing the identity of the speaker, nothing more. The words usually speak for themselves. But I just hate writing it all the goddamn time, so I often use beats to cover it instead, having the character do something rather than just say something. And while I don't think that my writing is quite to the level of their examples, it did make me go through and think about how I was pacing my dialogue.
Pace is something stressed over and over again, and really it's the heart of a novel, and for good reason. It's important as all get-out! Too fast and you tired your readers out; too slow and you bore them into dropping it. Balance is important, something else stressed throughout the book.
Of all the things this book taught, I think being aware is the most important one. Self-awareness is important throughout life in general, but it's hard to learn. You have to be able to watch what you're doing with an analytical eye, and that can be tough when we're so emotionally attached to our work. You don't want to stop feeling those feelings, either; you just want to be able to read what elements are evoking them, and work with those parts of your novel best.
I'd like this book to be a thousand pages long; the 262 aren't really enough to cover everything that needs to be discussed about editing, and really you could go on forever. But for a good primer to editing, this book really works.
ONE WORD REVIEW: ENLIGHTENING B/W?D: BUY