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