Book Review: Manuscript Makeover – Elizabeth Lyon

ManuscriptMakeover One of the books I bought at the recent PNWA convention was Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon, a very well known editor, and one of the lecturers at the convention.  It was particularly timely for me because I am, after all, in the middle of a major revision of The Forgotten Road, and I need all the help I can get.

One of the biggest issues I have with editing is that there are only so many things I can look for on each pass through the book.  I figure I can do 3-4 major things at a time if it is something new, like a new technique for showing and not telling, or if it is something major like checking for point of view.  While Lyon’s book doesn’t magically make you able to handle 20 things at one, it does provide you with numerous check lists of specific things to look for.  I like that.  I just wish they were all in a single spot in the book or somehow detachable in a poster I could hang on my wall and check off each time I finish an editing pass.

Her coverage of Point of View issues was excellent.  I have never really understood the very subtle differences between 3rd person limited and 3rd person omniscient.  It just was never clear in my mind what to look for when readers said I had those types of POV breaks.  She explains this really well, and I put that new skill to the test early yesterday morning on a flashback scene that had numerous subtle POV issues.

I read this book a little bit at a time over the past couple of weeks while commuting, but I read the last 200 pages in the last two days.  I was stuck at the car dealership for two and a half hours yesterday getting work done on my truck, and I did learn from Stephen King that you should never go anywhere without a book readily available.  Reading a book like this for hours straight is not the most productive method for me.  My mind wanders and I may turn two or three pages without my brain really having read what my eyes have seen.   It’s another one of those books, like The Last Five Pages by Noah Lukeman that I will need to go back and reread down the road.  I know my brain didn’t capture every lesson there, and it usually takes me a year or two of use to polish a new skill to the point it is second nature so I can move on to a more thorough understanding of another writing device.

This was the perfect time to read this book for me.  I am deep into this edit, and fixing POV and plot issues, and the tips she provided and the samples in the book were very easy to understand.  If I wasn’t so completely happy with my current editor (Jason Black at Plot to Punctuation), I would be looking in to Ms. Lyon’s rates.  Probably too pricey for a new writer like me, but the book was certainly worth the money.

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