Thursday, March 5, 2009

Need Help Revising?
13 Tips from Master Writers

Spring, that magical time of rebirth, is almost here. It makes me think of turning the soil in my garden and putting in seeds and new plants. I think about renewal and change. Then I muse over when the bulbs I’ve tucked into the ground will emerge and what they’ll look like. I anticipate flowers -- exquisite and lovely.

I hope for the unexpected surprise as well as expected results.

Revising for me is a lot like those bulbs I place into the ground in fall. I read over what I’ve written and see if I can make it stronger -- choosing better verbs or cutting out extraneous adverbs, lines, paragraphs and scenes. I see if I can make sentences and sections clearer, less awkward and more power-packed.

Most of time, the hope that I can improve my writing keeps me going. But for those moments when I feel like giving up on a particular page or chapter, I remember that others have experienced what I’m going through and they’ve usually succeeded in improving their manuscripts. I enjoy reading their advice. It perks up my spirits.

Header from samulli

I bet their tips will encourage you, too. Here goes:

1. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again and then again and once more, over and over. -- John Hersey
2. I can't write five words but that I change seven. -- Dorothy Parker
3. Hard writing makes easy reading. Easy writing makes hard reading. -- William Zinsser
4. 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
5. 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
6. Don't Tell me the moon is shining; Show me the glint of light on broken glass. -- Anton Chekhov
7. Books aren't written -- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it. -- Michael Crichton
8. 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
9. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing. -- Bernard Malamud
10. Books are never finished; they are merely abandoned. -- Oscar Wilde
11. It is with words as with sunbeams -- the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. -- Robert Southey
12. My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts that readers skip. -- Elmore Leonard
13. You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. -- Arthur Polotnik
Do you have a revision story or a gardening tale you’d like to share? I’m all ears.



  1. Great list. Love these quotes ;0)

  2. Your list time warped me back to my first composition class in college -
    LOVED IT ...

  3. and what part do readers skip I read it all -except explicit

  4. How true. I've always felt I could edit the word "the."

    I posted a TT also. Feel free to drop by and enter my contest while you're visiting. Thanks.

  5. Great quotes! I added one to my signature file. :) Happy TT!

  6. Those are all great quotes. This list makes me think of one that I just recently read:

    "Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
    - Samuel Johnson

    Excellent TT!


  7. Always need encouragement!

    I'm trying to see if any other authors would like to cross promote using the 13? I send 13 questions about your book & post, and vice versa. Would any of your collection of authors be interested? let me know!

  8. i always have a great respect with write and envy them as well, i think they are the smartest person in the world.

  9. I LOVE revising. It's when you get to take a sculptor's tools and really craft the story.

    But... I'm weird.

  10. These are wonderful and very motivating for me! Thank you! I need to print this up in big fonts and frame it up on the wall where I can see it everyday! LOL!

  11. Excellent quotes, very definitely true for the most part.

  12. I really need to just sit down and get some writing done...

    (In the meantime, I'll bask in the vicarious glow of my friend Debbie on the NYT Bestseller list. Squee! Children's Pbk list if you're interested.)

  13. This is certainly near and dear to my heart right now. I can't seem to STOP revising. At this point I figure I've re-written three times as many words as I've written. I even recently started a novel over from scratch.

  14. Oh sure, fine in writing... but how about in life... or time! Revision would be EXCELLENT!

    Kidding aside, these are some most goodly quotes!

  15. Great quotes. Very important information there, too.

  16. I am trying so hard to get focused on my writing again and these quotes are great!!!

  17. Thank you for sharing this, it's priceless. I got a lot out of this TT! :)

  18. Interesting set of quotes, and timely, since I'm just about to embark on editing a story (should I ever get round to doing it, but the quotes have made me slightly more eager to do so).

  19. I like to write because I'm better at it than talking. It gives you time to think...and you can rewrite it!

  20. Excellent quotes!

  21. Love those quotes, especially the Wilde and the Dorothy Parker, two of my favorite writers!

  22. Great list! As a writer, I am soooooo grateful for #4, especially!

  23. What a great list! Thanks for visiting my T13

  24. Brenda, Keep up the good work! I loved this entry about writing and rewriting. Each time I sit down to write something, the words flow, then the real work starts in the editing. Susan

  25. Very sound advice. My favorites were the quotes by Richard North Patterson and Elmore Leonard.