Revised and Expanded! The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers
First in a series of "Little Books" for writers
Kindle edition available now!
12 Ways to Take Your Book from Good to Great
Whether your aim is to seek a publishing contract or to publish your book yourself, you want your writing to be as free of placeholder words, as devoid of verbal crutches, as lean and clean as you can learn to make it. This book will show you how.
Part One: Search and Destroy
Whether it's fish heads, zombie nouns, vampire verbs, or the dread dangling participle, these chapters will show you how to find and eliminate common early-draft mistakes.
Part Two: The Self-Editor's Toolkit
Learn to create richer language, set the pace, and wrangle dialogue tags while pondering "The Most-Hated Writing Advice Ever."
Part Three: Self-Editing Resources
Links to good books and helpful websites for writers, and a handy quick-reference to all the pointers in The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers.
Good editing by the writer—before an outside editor ever sees your work—can make the difference between an okay book and a good one, or between a good book and a great one.
“Even in today's world of self-publishing, good editing can mean the difference between an okay story and a great one. ...We need to put our best foot forward and The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers can help. Concise, yet descriptive, following this guide can only make your writing stronger.” 5-star Amazon Review
“...What this *is* is a book about crafting the most polished, powerful prose possible -- so that when you do hire an editor you aren't wasting your money fixing things you could have & should have fixed on your own.... 5-star Amazon Review
“ ...every section in this book is both dense and immediately useful. A quick skim will improve your writing, your writing process, and make your rewriting time more efficient. And you can come back to it over and over....” 5-star Amazon Review
The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers is available at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca, and all Amazon stores for US$4.99 or the local equivalent.
Available soon for the Nook at Barnes&Noble.com, and for Kobo at Kobo.com
NEW! The Defiling
On a pilgrimage across a pitiless desert, three poets find a small child dying of thirst and exposure. They stop to observe and create art from the moment, for this is the work of true poets—their duty to the world. One will not be changed by the tragedy they are about to witness. One will lose everything she possesses, and the third will feel the weight of her next decision for every moment of her life to come.
The Defiling is a science fiction short story of approximately 3000 words. It originally appeared in Amazing Stories magazine, edited by Patrick L. Price.
The Defiling is available for 99c at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.au, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
NEW! Red Fuji
Katsushika Hokusai is dying. His daughter brings him a brush and ink to write his death poem, and the greatest living artist in Japan laments “If Heaven could only grant me ten more years! Even five more, and I would become a real painter!” But soon his life and his painting will come to an end. It falls to a visitor from a different realm to make the master an offer he never expected.
Red Fuji is a previously unpublished short story of approximately 2200 words.
Red Fuji is available for 99c at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.au, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
A summer rainstorm, a speeding car, and all that’s left for Romer Wills and his family is to build a coffin and hold a funeral for their beloved Pup so the children can feel they’ve done the proper thing. And that would be that, but three nights later something comes scratching at the kitchen door. Pup has returned, and with him have come happiness and rejoicing, trouble and sorrow, miracles and dark deeds.
“The Good Pup” originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in March 1993. It was a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Short Story.
The Good Pup e-book is available for 99c at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
The Old Organ Trail
Pewtie Marshall was the king of the liverleggers back in the days of the gaseaters, when it took balls and brains to drive a car, and the ’leggers in their firebreathing, gaseating hot rods would tear up the blue highways between pickup points and delivery drops, waxing Smokey’s ass with their souped-up Camaros and Zeecars with their Igloos full of livers and hearts and whatnot tucked snug between the front and back seats.
Those days are long behind him, but when Angelo “The Eliminator” Angelini calls upon Pewtie to make one last run to give him a chance at a new life, Pewtie knows it’s not an offer he can refuse.
Now Pewtie and his sorry-looking dog, Dave, need to gas the old hotrod and burn up the roads to the Oregon border. Between here and there, they're going to need to be invisible to CHiPSat, the murderous traffic-control satellite, and keep a weather eye in the rearview for any sign of Jimmy-Bob “Roadkill” LaRue and the Skullbusters M.C.
“The Old Organ Trail” was originally published in Writers of The Future, Volume 2, edited by Algis Budrys, in 1986. This edition includes the author's afterword, “Finding ‘The Old Organ Trail.’”
Available now for 99c at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
The Bard Effect
Buy The Bard Effect on Amazon for 99c.
A team of scientists has assembled lots of government funding and a staggering number of chimpanzees to train in communicating via keyboard. Jackie is a promising beginner, and Harold is an up-and-comer, but Billy is a failure who types nothing but gibberish. Today, Billy is being transferred to the San Diego Zoo, but before he goes, he has a few things to say....
The Bard Effect originally appeared in Amazing Stories Magazine, edited by Kim Mohan. This edition includes an essay by the author: "Writing The Bard Effect."
Available now at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
The Little Things
They came in twos and threes and half-dozens, flying above the main street of town on some unknown and unimaginable errand, perhaps twice the size of large butterflies, with pale slender bodies, and dragonfly wings sparkling in the sun.
The children noticed them first, and followed them down the street, looking up in wonder.
“Fairies!” they shouted to their parents inside the cozy houses. “Fairies!” they shrieked to one another in high voices. “Fairies!”
In Morgan’s Glen, everything is about to change.
The Little Things was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in 1993. This edition includes the author's afterword, “Writing ‘The Little Things’”
Available now for 99c at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
Kidnapped by Aliens!
Suppose you felt trapped in an unhappy marriage. Suppose you saw this ad in a newspaper...
"Have you ever wished your loved one could be kidnapped by aliens? Call 1-800-GOODBYE for more information. No salesmen will call."
If you're Guy Collier, well-meaning but luckless tech writer for a big Los Angeles software company, you might just pick up the phone and call. But that might only be the begining of your problems.
“Kidnapped by Aliens!” was originally published in June 1995 in Tomorrow SF, edited by Algis Budrys. It includes an essay by the authors, "Writing (and Rewriting) Kidnapped by Aliens!"
This book is now available for 99c at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
Evenings, Mornings, Afternoons
Jonathan sees something in the waves—something terrifying and wonderful. But he's probably just crazy. There could not possibly be beautiful young men and women playing out beyond the breakers in the frigid winter ocean, festooning their naked bodies with seaweed, singing the songs he hears in his dreams. It's probably only the drugs the doctors give him for the pain that never leaves him alone.
But as he feels death coming nearer, the song grows more insistent, and the sea-people swim closer to shore. Jonathan must know once and for all if he's “a crazy old fairy” as his best friend insists, or if the people in the waves have some message for him.
“Evenings, Mornings, Afternoons” is a short story of about 4000 words. It was originally published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, edited by Gardner Dozois, in December 1990.
Available now for 99c at amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
Hole in the Wall
Buy Hole in the Wall on Amazon for 99c.
It’s 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower is in the White House, and all’s right with the world. Morton Grimes is a county health inspector on a mission: run Ladislaw Tomacheski out of business. Between Tomacheski’s strange foreign accent, his Negro fry cook, and the strange phenomenon that keeps appearing on the Ladies’ Room wall, Tomacheski’s Hole in the Wall diner is a thorn in Grimes’ side. But someone from another place and time has a different plan for Tomacheski, and all the power vested in Morton Grimes by the health department will be no match for them.
Hole in the Wall originally appeared in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. This edition includes an essay by the author: “Writing Hole in the Wall.”
A Little Night Music - A Short Story
A Little Night Music
Richie is a dealer, selling tickets on a steep drop to hopeless addiction. To music. His best friend Vince lives in poverty to support his craving for Mozart. Somewhere in L.A., a virtuoso chemist has targeted them for a brutal experiment. Can either of them survive it?
“Music and drugs have a connection that goes way back. In “A Little Night Music,” Bridget McKenna takes that connection and tightens it down until the words come to mean basically the same thing....” -Kim Mohan, Amazing Stories Magazine
"A Little Night Music" was originally published in 1992 in Amazing Stories, edited by Kim Mohan.
Now available for 99c on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
The Amaranthine Heart, by Bridget McKenna
A Short Story Set in the World of TERA
A Journey into Memory
Madoc is a decorated federation hero drinking himself to death in the fleshpots of Castanica. His biggest creditor—castanic crime lord Praedo—offers him a job that will wipe out his debt: sober up and escort a caravan to Val Aureum, where a shadowy priest claims to have the secret that will grant Praedo eternal life.
Val Aureum is the one place Madoc swore never to return to—the home of the battle that changed his life forever. When the federation mustered him out, he ran from everything he knew—alone, ashamed, courting the oblivion he almost found.
Now he’s going back, along with three of Praedo’s henchmen and a mysterious cargo. There’ll be a rendezvous with death, with destiny, and with the unwelcome past when the party keeps its appointment with Ealhain, a blood magician, at the Dark Cathedral.
Set in the world of the first true action MMORPG, TERA™, “The Amaranthine Heart” travels the paths that lead to the heart of heroism.
Published by En Masse Entertainment
Available now at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and all Amazon stores worldwide.
Cover painting by Jeff Sturgeon
About a million years ago (or was it only 2004?) my lovely and talented daughter and I decided to publish a downloadable electronic magazine. We published Aeon Speculative Fiction for four years, had a wonderful time, worked like dogs, and made lots of new friends.
When we ceased publication in 2008, we still had more than a dozen stories and a nice handful of poems in inventory. So we went to Fairwood Press and asked them if they'd be interested in publishing these as an anthology. They were, and they did. And here it is, in reasonably-priced trade paperback and ebook editions.
"Aeon probably nurtured the most eclectic group of writers and stories anywhere. During the four years of the magazine’s run, the McKennas produced a fine publication which offered stories by Big Names, Up-and-Comers, and New Discoveries. It’s great to see the last of Aeon collected and published — a completeness and summation long overdue, but never too late." --Howard V. Hendrix, author of The Labyrinth Key
"End of an Aeon is a wonderful collection by some of today's most outstanding short story authors. It's like finding an old friend you haven't seen in years. I'll miss this magazine. Seeing End of an Aeon coming to publication is a bittersweet moment. You’ll love the stories inside, don't get me wrong. The McKenna's have a way of picking winners. I’m just sad that this marks the end of another fantastic magazine." --J.A. Pitts, author of Black Blade Blues
"I don’t read ebooks so I never saw an issue of Aeon magazine, which only appeared in electronic form. Having recently ceased publication, the editors have put together a final volume to appear in traditional book form. There are twenty stories here, all quite short, and I assume most of the authors were previously published in the electronic version so this should be typical. The best of the contributions are by Lavie Tidhar, Jeff Crook, and Greg Beatty, although there really aren’t any bad stories. ... Worth looking for." --Critical Mass
"End of an Aeon serves as an epitome of the small press, because it puts a cap on the McKennas' fine e-zine Aeon." --Rich Horton, Locus
Available in trade paperback, Kindle and Nook editions, and also at Fairwood Press
In the blog:
Why I Didn't Keep Reading Your Book, Part 2
Why I Didn't Keep Reading Your Book, Part 1
Self-Editing for Everyone Part 12: Point of View Violations -
Part 11: Homophones - Part 10: Passive Voice - Part 9: The Case of the Dangling Modifier - Part 8: Dialogue Tags - Part 7: Two Languages - Part 6: Secrets of Relative Velocity - Part 5: When Words Get in the Way - Part 4: The Weakeners - Part 3: Attack of the Adverbs! - Part 2: Vampire Verbs, Zombie Verbs, and Verbs That Kick Ass - Part 1: The Most-Hated Writing Advice Ever
“A fantastic resource for any writer is Bridget McKenna’s book “The Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers” It’s the best $2.99 you’ll ever invest in your writing career.”
“Concise, yet descriptive, following this guide can only make your writing stronger.”
“As a creative writing instructor, I suggest very strongly all my students purchase this book before turning in any type of fiction. Interestingly, those who do, submit much more professional pieces.”
“I discovered it at the perfect time—just as I was finishing up the copy-editing and clean-up on my latest novel.”
“I read this book in one sitting. My writing has already improved tenfold....”
“I have gone through this book a section at a time while self-editing my book and it has made an amazing improvement on my writing.... When you self edit your book (which everyone should be doing) then you must pick this book up!”
“Writers who read and use this book will produce stronger, tighter, cleaner manuscripts and will become stronger first-draft writers in the process.”
“McKenna keeps her advice short, uses simple, clear examples and includes a ready reference at the end.... I plan to refer to it often.”
“Any time you are about to sit down with the intent of transforming a first or second draft into a honed, final draft, you should pick up the Little Book of Self-Editing for Writers and remind yourself what to look for & how to make it better.”
“It's the best writing advice I've ever gotten for the price of a cup of coffee.”
“The book is a must for anyone trying to publish - even the experienced author.”
Thanks for visiting! Read the blog on your way through.
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Essential Blogs for Writers
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Dean Wesley Smith
The Passive Voice
The Book Designer
A Newbie's Guide to Publishing
Barry Eisler: For Writers
A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing
J W Manus
The Creative Penn
Friends, Romans, etc.
Douglas Herring, Illustrator
R.K. MacPherson's The Raven's Nest