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  • Writer's pictureFallon Clark

Craft Books That Will Help You Edit Your Fiction Novel

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

So, you've finished the first draft of your fiction novel and now you're ready to tackle the all-important self-edit. But there are so many things to think about:

  • characters and whether they're robust enough, their arcs and journeys believable and complete;

  • the power and importance of your settings and how they enhance your characters or plot;

  • the plot itself and whether it's bringing out your protagonist's personality;

  • whether the subplots you use to carry the narrative between major plot points is working well.

Where to begin?

You know there are a million craft books available to show you how to edit your work, but trying to narrow down that potential craft-book TBR list is exhausting. How can you be sure that the craft books you choose are the right ones for gaining clarity where you need it?

If it feels like a lot, that's because it is.

Mastering the self-edit isn't easy, but there are a few books I've recommended to my clients over and over to assist them during self-edits, and these are also books I use myself when self-editing my work. And the good news is that once you've absorbed the material covered in these books, you'll be able to apply the lessons over and over without really thinking about them. They'll become a second-nature part of your writerly process.

Cool, right?

Before I jump into the books I most often recommend to writers to master their self-edits, a quick note:



Because reading aloud will allow you to synthesize the information you read faster and will make you a better reader and self-editor at the same time. This happens because reading aloud engages a bunch of cognitive functions at the same time, which will stimulate your brain power. And who doesn't need a little extra brain power when facing that all-important self-edit?

So don't skip this piece of advice, or you're cheating yourself.

Now, without further ado, here are a few craft books to add to your collection so you can master your self-edit:

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing

Author: Larry Brooks

Story Engineering breaks down “story” into 7 component parts over 6 core competencies that will help you identify the must-have scenes in your novel and help increase reader engagement by helping you meet reader expectations.

Why I love it: Story Engineering focuses on story structure and getting the right pieces in the right order without being formulaic. Brooks writes in a way that is conversational, simple, and easy to digest, and he includes examples from popular novels and movies you probably know (or at least know of), so you can see how to practically apply the information. Story Engineering is great for big-picture or developmental edits.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

Authors: Renni Browne and Dave King

Self-Editing will help you hone and focus your story after the story parts are in place and help you craft better stories in the process. It covers concepts like showing versus telling, characterization and exposition, point of view, dialogue and interior monologue, proportion, and voice.

Why I love it: This 30-year-old book packs a powerhouse of techniques and includes a variety of checklists and assessment tools to help you view your story through an editing lens. It pulls together so much information into one place that, in all honesty, the checklists alone are worth the cost of the book. Self-Editing spans the bridge between developmental and line edits. Two birds, one stone.

The Elements of Style

Authors: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

The Elements provides a robust re-education in basic grammar and usage and includes guidance for breaking those rules judiciously for character authenticity. It is also arranged like a dictionary so you can use it as a quick-reference tool while you're on the job.

Why I love it: I strongly believe every writer and editor should read The Elements to have a reasonable grasp of proper use of language. This book spans the bridge between line editing and copy editing by providing focused grammatical rules common in the craft of fiction writing. Like my dictionary, this is one book that lives on my desk within arms reach.


Already finished your self-edit and ready for a professional evaluation? Contact me to talk about your story and your goals, so I know how I can best serve you.

And don't forget to add to the conversation and help your fellow writers by leaving a comment below.

Happy writing and editing!


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