The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself

“Bell’s prose is elegant and wonderfully readable in this artful guide.”—Publishers Weekly

The Artful Edit explores the many-faceted and often misunderstood—or simply overlooked—art of editing. The book brims with examples, quotes, and case studies, including an illuminating discussion of Max Perkins’s editorial collaboration with F. Scott Fitzgerald on The Great Gatsby. Susan Bell, a veteran book editor, also offers strategic tips and exercises for self-editing and a series of remarkable interviews, taking us into the studios of successful authors such as Michael Ondaatje and Ann Patchett to learn from their various approaches to revision. Much more than a manual, The Artful Edit inspires readers to think about both the discipline and the creativity of editing and how it can enhance their work. In the computer age of lightning-quick composition, this book reminds readers that editing is not simply a spell-check. A vigorous investigation into the history and meaning of the edit, this book, like The Elements of Style, is a must-have companion for every writer.

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. “Editing is more an attitude than a system.” Susan Bell has been a professional editor of fiction and non-fiction for twenty years. She also teaches editing at New York’s New School graduate writing program. In “The Artful Edit,” Bell offers expert advice on how to refine one’s writing through self-editing. Revising one’s work is important because “no editor can, with crystal clarity, know the precise place her author’s work ought to go.” A writer who edits herself gains independence and control over her work. She may still profit…

  2. Not as Good as I Had Hoped Bell started strong, with an interesting introduction about the importance of editing and the importance of separating the writer from the self-editor; however, the book took on a structure that felt more like a pastiche of lecture notes than a full-length book. Much of the book is not her original material. For example, at the end of each chapter Bell summarizes for a few pages, and then tacks on 2-3 pages of personal anecdote written by one of her writer friends. A whole chapter (Chapter 5)…

  3. A meditation on what it means to edit Potential readers of Susan Bell’s “The Artful Edit” would do well to consider first what this book is, and what it is not. This is not a replacement for the ubiquitous and essential “Elements of Style” which should be on every English speaker’s desk. No, where that fine work was written for everyone who wishes to write, Bell’s work, I would dare to presume, is meant for writers. And for those people, her pages sing. 

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