The Artful Edit

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If there is any book you must-have in your writer’s toolkit, it is Susan Bell’s book, The Artful Edit. The book is so full of information, you will need to take a break from it to let it all sink in. Bell’s editing guide will help new and seasoned writers face their weaknesses. You will become, not just a better writer, but a better self-editor, and editor.

Bell states on page 10, “An editor, and a writer editing him[her]self, must treat a work on its own terms.” In other words, don’t make a Stephen King writer into a Nicholas Sparks writer. The editor should not turn the manuscript into something else, something that it is not intended to be.

Like many editors and teachers of writing, Bell suggests distancing yourself from your manuscript. Put it aside for a day, week, or a month, then get back into it. You can see your writing with fresh eyes.


Bell suggestions for writers to trust their language from the beginning, you can always change it after you finished. Let your prose out on paper first, then fine-tune it when you finished writing. If you keep stopping and looking back at what you wrote, it interrupts the flow of words. If need be, try the old fashion why, use a pen (pencil) and write your story on paper, and then type it on the computer.

Pen to Paper.

Why use long-form? Judith Freeman, a writer Bell talks about in The Artful Edit, feels there are advantages to putting pen (pencil) to paper. One reason is that it slows your writing. Next, because you are not rereading as you write, when you reread, you are doing it with a fresh set of eyes. And last, the link between pen and paper makes your first draft truer and can lead to fewer changes (Bell, 17).

Reading Out Loud.

Another author Bell reference is Bradford Morrow on the topic of reading your story out loud. I know this is the one thing my writing teachers pounded in my head. Morrow tells us to read our work aloud, religiously (Bell, 20). Further along, Bell talks about two variations of reading the material out loud. One way is to record yourself. You can do this on a recorder, on your phone, or on your computer. Then play it back. The other variation has a neutral friend or a family member read your story to you. I will add a third variant, use the read-back function you your Microsoft Word, located under review. If you really want to get in touch with your editing side, use all three methods.


Mystical Night Media edits full scale. But there are other types, more centered. One is structure and character (Macro-Edit). Macro-Edit is taking in the big picture and see what does not work. Examples of this are intentions, foreshadowing, and continuity. The other type is Micro-Editing. Micro-Edit is small stuff like language, punctuation, typos, and show vs. tell.

Stand Out.

Other stuff that stands out is using imagery details and dialogue to bring your characters to life (Bell, 120). With details, leave the random stuff out, and keep the most authentic. (Bell, 121-122). With dialogue, keep it real, if they didn’t or don’t say that in real life, don’t use it (Bell 122). And to play the rearranging game. It is seeing how many ways you can say the same thing. This helps with repetition (Bell, 107).

If you are an editor, or a self-editor, The Artful Edit is a must-have book. Bell provides methods of improving your editing and new ways of editing. I will give you one warning about this book, read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald first. She references this book as many times as Geralt of Rivia says, “hmm” in Netflix’s The Witcher.

Bell, Susan. The Artful Edit: On The Practice Of Editing Yourself. W.W. Norton Company, Inc. New York. 2007. Print.

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