Bonny Franke conceived Editing – 10 Steps at Barnes and Noble in Plano, Texas, where she facilitated a group called Writers Anonymous. New authors discussed and dissected each other’s work, identifying weak spots and suggesting ways to strengthen them for publication. After several years, Franke believed she had gathered enough information to write a book about the subject. She describes this end result as a reference to help authors self-edit their pieces.
More accurately, the book is a sometimes-confusing mix of writing and editing advice that, in no particular order, covers the basics of character definition, scene setting, point of view, plot development, and grammar. Throughout, Franke weaves admonitions to hire an outside editor and heed his/her recommendations.
Unfortunately, the self-editing suggestions are too often vague. In a section about the value of setting deadlines, for example, Franke writes, “Questions arise but steps are taken and decisions made as to how to meet immediate and long term goals.” Other generic points: Don’t use slang unless it advances the storyline; avoid repeating words unless you feel it is effective; make sure all elements work together.
Although Franke counsels readers that “little grammar mistakes can make the whole process come unglued,” her own basic errors erode her credibility. Subject-verb disagreements are common, for example: “One cannot be effective in their writing,” and “struggles … puts life into the story” [our italics].
Misspellings, misused words, and missing commas also are problematic in a book that aims to teach editing skills. Misspelling the musical genre “leitmotif” as “lietmoteif,” for example, weakens an otherwise strong comparison between the dramatic arc of a book and the ebb and flow of a musical score. Other errors include confusing “climactic” with “climatic;” “Kodak” with “Kodax;” “prepositional” with “propositional;” and “playwright” with “play-write.”
Franke may have compiled useful information over time, but unfortunately, shaping it into an effective book will require exactly what she promotes: the help of a strong professional editor.
Also available as an ebook.