I spent a great deal of time revising “Week 36—The Complete Story.” I wanted you, the reader, to understand exactly what I was trying to convey. It was a complex piece that I needed to make as clear, as interesting and as true as possible. So I revised, revised and kept revising until I was almost completely satisfied with what I had written. I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100% satisfied with that piece.
In the beginning of my writing career, a friend of mine told me, “Write with fire, revise with flame.” The “fire” part of “The Complete Story” took less than thirty minutes to write. The “flame” part took countless hours.
Below are ten quotes by writers on the subject of revision. I chose these quotes because they rang true for me. Maybe they’ll ring true for you.
“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.” —Robert Cormier
“In working on a poem, I love to revise. Lots of younger poets don’t enjoy this, but in the process of revision I discover things.” —Rita Dove
“The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” —Michael Lee
“Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” —Bernard Malamud
“Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing.” —Richard North Patterson
“I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever written. My pencils outlast their erasers.” —Vladimir Nabokov
“Everything comes out wrong with me at first, but when once objectified in a crude shape, I can torture and poke and scrape and pat it until it offends me no more.” —William James
“This morning I took out a comma, and this afternoon I put it back again.” —Oscar Wilde
“Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush.” —Pete Murphy
“To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over.” —John Hersey