Thursday, March 12, 2009

13 Encouraging Quotes… to Keep You Plugging Away at Your Work-in-Process


Ah, revising. It’s necessary but painful. Beginning writers hate it. Many experienced writers aren’t crazy about it, either.
Afterward, I get a sense of enjoyment. In the same way as when walking through my kitchen after I’ve washed the dishes, put the food away, emptied the garbage, and swept the floor.
I feel a satisfaction as tangible as the clean scent of lemon wafting from the kitchen tiles.
When I revise a manuscript, I’m hope for positive feedback from my critique partners, saying something like: “I see what you’re getting at.”
That thought helps make revision tolerable.
But … while I’m tearing words from my manuscript, staring at those awkward sentences I failed to fix yet again or reworking whole sections, I often need a dose of inspiration and encouragement. I imagine you might, too, so I’d like to share a sampling of the quotes that keep me going.
Header from samulli

1. The wastebasket is the writer's best friend. -- Isaac Singer
2. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. -- Elmore Leonard
3. A kiss that speaks volumes is seldom a first edition. -- Clare Whiting
4. Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and a particular skill. -- Edmund Morrison
5. The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat. -- Robert Heinlein
6. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. -- Truman Capote
7. Writing is not like painting, where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work more visible. -- Elie Wiesel
8. I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. ... I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out. -- Erica Jong
9. If a teacher told me to revise, I thought that meant my writing was a broken-down car that needed to go to the repair shop. I felt insulted. I didn't realize the teacher was saying, "Make it shine. It's worth it." Now I see revision as a beautiful word of hope. It's a new vision of something. It means you don't have to be perfect the first time. What a relief! -- Naomi Shihab Nye

10. Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush. -- Pete Murphy
11. Be grateful for every word you can cut. -- William Zinsser
12. The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist. -- Michael Lee
13. Some of the best writing comes when you rehash. It's in the retelling of stories that the improvement comes. I compare it to preparing a lens for a telescope. For months, all you're doing is grinding it into the generalized shape of what a lens should be. Once the rough-cut bowl is formed, it's not going to reflect an image. … In writing you can have your skeleton, your structure, but it doesn't reflect. The reflection comes in the polish. What a person will see, what a person will feel, comes in the polish. When you finish polishing your writing, it forms the image you're trying to create. -- Donald Perry

How about you ? Can you tolerate revising? Or do you hate it? What helps you keep plugging?



  1. These are great however I wish revisions were my problem. I can't start for the life of me! I need to focus and get going! I am going to keep these quotes so when the revisions are holding me back, I will know I am not alone.

  2. The Elmore Leonard quote is excellent. He says it all in very few words, which is the point, isn't it?

    I posted a TT also. Feel free to drop by: Thanks.

  3. My inner critic screams so loud that I have never done enough writing to get to the revision stage.

    Tabbikat's Thoughts

  4. I'm one of those perfectionist Type-A people that is always revising something. Never happy. Sometimes have to just walk away!

  5. Great post. Love it.

  6. Great quotes! I tend to like to edit and revise a little too much, I think! But I want to put out the best possible book I can!


    My TT is at

  7. I get much more satisfaction out of my rough drafts than my revisions, but I think it's because there's a clean line there. The revisions never stop. I just kind off flag for a while.

  8. Awesome list! I love reading different quotes like that.
    God bless,

  9. Hi friend.. Interesting post.. Nice blog work.. keep it up..
    will drop by your site often.. Do find time to visit my blog and post your comments..
    Have a great day.. Cheers!!!

  10. I much prefer writing the first draft. It's a time of magic when I can let my characters turn any corner they want. (They usually know best)

    The rewriting isn't quite as much fun for me because I know what happens!

  11. I've got to go RIGHT after the first one... The wastebasket is the writer's best friend and add... if it's not emptied... once emptied, it's a nightmare as the important note, research, or idea you had will almost certainly become landfill or recycled copy paper.

    I know, I know... glass half empty... :)

  12. Lately #10 sums up my attitude. Though it depends on the project - and the rewrite. Sometimes I think there are soooo many ways to get from hither to yon that rewriting feels like exploration and I do it enthusiastically. Other times, when I was SURE I got it right the first time, it does feel like scrubbing the floor with a tooth brush. (Thanks for visiting my TT)

  13. Some great quotes. I'm just on the verge of revising so I'll bear them in mind. Just hope I don't whittle it away to nothing by cutting away the fat.

  14. ah, revising is painful. I shudder to even thing...

  15. Hey Brenda, thanks for stopping by today. I should get back into doing these again. Great list of quotes you put together. My problem is I can sit and fiddle with word choices all day long and I need to learn to be more ruthless and make changes on a grander scale. happy thursday!

    (I pulled out my external keyboard just for you!)

  16. Love all these quotes! Going to have to share them with my writing group :)

  17. Several of those are worth remembering.

  18. I love to reread something I've written first thing in the morning when I can see it anew. I don't mind the nitpicking. The hardest part is before I know what I'm doing, before the first good sketch because I don't knew where those come from or if they will at all.

  19. Oh, here's another quote I love that fits here: Try to leave out the parts that people skip." - Elmore Leonard

  20. I'm probably one of the few who LOVES to revise. For me, that's where the real magic happens, when you're shaping something, sculpting it, crafting it into the shape it wants to be ...

  21. I love #7, I never saw it that way before, but I guess it's true!

  22. #8 just went straight through me. I can always rely on you to give me something. Thank you.