Posted by: C. Margery Kempe | July 15, 2012

Revision

By C. Margery Kempe

Revision: it’s where the ‘real’ writing happens according to many writers.

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”
– Colette

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.

- Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956)

“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.”
– E.B. White, The New York Times, August 3, 1942

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
– Elmore Leonard, Newsweek, April 22, 1985

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and write it sentence by sentence–no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I can change seven.”
– Dorothy Parker, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956

“Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.”
― Raymond Chandler

“What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more. Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work that is already there. Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.”
-Susan Sontag

How much do you revise? How many drafts do you go through? When do you know it’s ‘done’?

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Responses

  1. I was going to do a post on this topic this week too…lol. You beat me to it. I personally love revision. It is when you get to play. You’ve already built the skeleton. Now you get to flesh it out. I probably still will write mine, and if I do, I’ll ping yours. :)

    • You should definitely write your take on it! Better a dialogue. I’d love to hear your take on things! :-)

  2. Timely post, Margery. I’m expecting to receive my first round of edits from my editor early this coming week and so the revisions will begin. Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever be happy. I think I would pick up the printed book and want to make a change. But I suppose I’m done and it’s finished when my editor and publisher are happy with it and it goes to print.

    • I understand that feeling, but I am impatient, so I find it easy to reconcile myself with ‘good enough’ — perfection is a chimera, I don’t really want to chase it.

  3. Not only do I like the quotes and picture, I like the sentiment. It’s where I’m at right now.

    • I did kind of look for an excuse to use that great picture of Colette :-)

  4. I L-O-V-E this post. Once the blood and guts are done (sometimes just the skeleton), I enjoy playing. About revisions: how many? I don’t keep count mostly because I can’t count that high. Teehee.

    • I really enjoy the revision: occasionally it can be a tussle with an editor if I’m writing about something unfamiliar, but it’s good to know how an audience also new to something — like, oh say Kustom car culture as in DRAGGER ELLA — will be likely to respond.


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