Ah, revision. A topic we love, or hate, or love to hate. But one that we cannot fail to recognize as critical to good writing.
Here are a few favorite quotes on revision from some famous writers:
"In writing, you must kill all your darlings." William Faulkner
"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." Mark Twain (no longer true, but you get the idea)
Interviewer:"Was there some technical problem? What stumped you?"
Ernest Hemingway: "Getting the words right." (from an interview question on why Hemingway rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms so many times)
And finally, this gem:
"Let's say it's a mess. but you have a chance to fix it. You try to be clearer. Or deeper. Or more eloquent. Or more eccentric. You try to be true to a world. You want the book to be more spacious, more authoritative. You want to winch yourself up from yourself. You want to winch the book out of your balky hand. You try to liberate it. You try to get this wretched stuff on the page closer to what you think your book ought to be—what you know, in your spasms of elation, it can be. You read the sentences over and over. Is this the book I'm writing? Is this all?" Susan Sontag
Are you comfortable revising? Do you love it? Do you merely tolerate it?
It seems that as we mature as writers we come to embrace revision because, as Sontag says, we have a chance to fix our mess. Once we realize that everyone creates a mess that has to be fixed, and that revision comes with the deal if you want to write, we can get excited about this phase of the process.
What are your favorite things about revising? Do you have any fun revision stories or quotes (yours or someone else's) you can share?
Thanks for sharing those quotes! (-:ReplyDelete
They're always fun, aren't they?Delete
Loved the quotes. I much prefer revising to writing the first draft. Maybe because I've been revising for so long. And as I lose my stubbornness about changing things, I've become bolder in my revisions.ReplyDelete
Ah, I think you nailed it, Natalie--stubbornness. That's exactly the powerful stopper I had to overcome in my initial resistance to revising.Delete
I'm currently neck deep in revision and I totally empathize with Susan Sontag's quote. That's exactly how I feel. :DReplyDelete
Fantastic that you're at the revision stage, Veronica (even if it feels like trying to breathe under water sometimes). Finishing a whole draft is something to celebrate. Revising is something to get our arms around and settle in to do it right. Many top authors spent far longer revising a book than writing its first draft.Delete
I hate the IDEA of starting to revise, but once I'm into it, I keep poking at the words until they're somehow RIGHT.ReplyDelete
It's a love/hate relationship - I wish I could produce perfect prose from the beginning, but it doesn't work that way. My brain has little bad habits - such as using the same word twice in a paragraph - that I don't catch until revision. Being too picky while writing new stuff takes all the fun out of creating.
There is a different pleasure center in my brain that gets activated while polishing. It's weird, but I LIKE revising - at least until something meets some deeply buried standard that I think I acquired from years of reading.
I'm curious. Did Susan Sontag's words come from an interview - or was it something she wrote? I'd put my money on the former.
BTW, you didn't say how YOU feel about revising - I'm new here, so I'll go see if it's in your archives somewhere.
Thanks for the interesting topic - you got my thought processes primed to go start revising.
Great that you're ready to revise, Abe! I agree that switching from the fun of creating to editor mode is painful, but once you're in it you can find great pleasure, as long as you're not too close to the work. That's the hard part for me. (The Sontag quote came from a site I was looking at (brainpickings.org) that used a number of quotes only attributed by the author's name. Good question.)Delete
I absolutely love revising! I spend hours thinking when I'm not typing. I am in the process of shifting and changing chapters.ReplyDelete
Now I'm playing book detective. Analyzing motives. Being my own worse critic... Asking, "Why would they do that?" Answering, "They wouldn't!" Then creating motive so actions are not forced or convenient. Major changes occur after the work of writing the first draft occurs.
But these major changes are all fun. And this revision is where the story pops, characters come to life, and the world opens.
Exciting stuff, Karlene! I think you have a natural talent for revising--you find a way to let go, to be objective about your own work, more easily than most can. Kudos!!Delete
I'm one of those weird people that absolutely love it. It's the rough draft that gives me fits. But, since becoming an outlining type of writer, the first draft has become easier.ReplyDelete
That's so great, Heather. I'm right behind you! :) (except I'll never be a true outliner-whomps the heck out of the creativity for me. I've seen what excellent results outlining can bring for others, though.)Delete