I read and review lots of books (287 reviews blogged in 2012). More self published books are being offered for review each year. While some self published books are surprisingly well written, the majority are not. I wanted to understand why.
James Bell has given me the answers. He writes, “...99.9 percent of self-published authors need to learn how to self-edit better.” (11) I agree!
Writing good fiction is hard work. Bell's book is a wealth of information on writing a novel and then revising and self-editing it. He takes us through developing compelling characters, creating scenes that move the story, establishing the plot and structure, point of view, improving fiction through dialogue, and much more. He emphasizes rewriting. “If you want your book to be the best it can be, it's going to take work. And you won't get it right the first time.” (198)
I especially liked his idea of the spreadsheet for scene development. That idea alone made the book worthwhile for me. And I agree wholeheartedly with his advice against flashbacks. If used, they must be with great care.
Bell has included several exercises at the end of each chapter, making this a great choice for fiction writing groups. He also includes The Ultimate Revision Checklist, a systematic approach to revising your work.
My advice to all you self publishing writers of fiction – get this book. Perhaps you have a great idea, a potential plot that sizzles, and a possibility of compelling characters. Now, take that draft to the next level. By using the material in Bell's book, you can make that mediocre work one that will receive five stars from reviewers like me.
But remember,I've read Bell's book. I know what dialogue is supposed to do. I know how scenes are supposed to be created. I know what makes a compelling character. Do you?
James Scott Bell is a best-selling novelist. He lives and writes in Los Angeles. You can find out more about him at www.jamesscottbell.com.
Writer's Digest Books, 281 pages.