Self-Editing Your Novel Manuscript

★ The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel: A Step-by-Step Guide to Perfecting Your Work (Paperback) by Robert J. Ray, reviewed by C. J. Singh on amazon.com, copy posted February 16, 2010 (23 of 24 people found the review helpful.) – See all my reviews

The Weekend Novelist Rewrites the Novel makes an excellent companion to Ray’s The Weekend Novelist (TWN). But, what if you haven’t read TWN? You still could follow this book — thanks to its 11-page detailed glossary. The book also includes a witty rewrite-in-progress of a draft — a draft that had been completed without its author having read TWN.

In rewriting, Ray focuses on restructuring, not mere copyediting (aka line-editing): “The key to rewriting your novel is not line-editing, the key is fixing the subplots. If you fix the subplots, then the manuscript will shape up” (page 7). The assumption here is that the writer has already structured the main plot with care. Ray suggests many restructuring exercises such as making separate grids for each subplot. Throughout, he presents structural analyses of a number of novels to illustrate craft concepts. The novels include:

literary contemporaries such as,

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler,
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys,and
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje;

literary classics like Pride and PrejudiceJane Eyre, and The Great Gatsby; and a few genre novels like Gorky Park and The Eye of the Needle.

Ray also comments on the screen adaptations of novels and suggests the “Rewrite mantra: to find story secrets, study good films” (p. 35). In both editions of TWN, the short list of recommended books for novel-writing include Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Workbook. Field’s pioneering book, “Screenplay,” popularized the three-act structure (based on Aristotle’s “Poetics”) and added two plot points, which he defined “as any incident, episode, or event that hooks into the action and spins it around in another direction.”

The second edition of The Weekend Novelist begins by noting: “Writing a novel in the twenty-first century is made complicated by the world of screens. It wasn’t like that always….Screens have changed the writing world. When the writing world changes, the writer must change.” To learn the new complications in the craft, I studied both editions of TWN.

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The Second Edition: An Excellent Narrative-Craft Book

 ★The Weekend Novelist (Paperback) by Robert J. Ray, reviewed by C. J. Singh on amazon.com, copy posted on May 3, 2007 (13 of 14 people found the review helpful.) – See all my reviews
After reading the Amazon reviews of this book, I decided to purchase both editions to find out why several reviews extol the first edition over the second.
The Weekend Novelist
In TWN’s first edition, Robert J Ray lucidly analyzes the fiction craft in one novel, Anne Tyler’s THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, a great favorite of mine (“Anne Tyler is not merely good; she is wickedly good,” wrote John Updike). The preface to the second edition notes: “The first edition of this book started with character and moved on to plot and scene and writing. The second edition expands the plotting section. From a dozen or so pages in the old edition, we have enlarged this focus to give you a range of choices for building your book. The basic concept you need to build a plot is architecture” (ix).