With a manuscript due in eleven days, I’m well into final revisions. Revision is where a book happens.
About a year ago I wrote this:
One of my fantasies is dreaming up a complete plot and typing it into my computer, full-blown like Venus on the half-shell. Maybe that happens for some writers. For me, the reality looks nothing like that—and I’m not alone.
The only kind of writing is rewriting. Ernest Hemingway
The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in. Henry Green
In writing, you must kill all your darlings. William Faulkner
Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon. Raymond
Revision is not going back and fussing around, but going forward into the process of
creation. Mary Sarton
I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. Truman Capote
One of the best quotes about the process of revision came in a recent Facebook post from a very fine writer, Louise Penny. She was about 20,000 words into the first draft of her next Gamache book. Her first drafts, she says, are “huge, soft and smelly.” Yup. She went on to describe the process of writing in a way that inspires me:
First draft is about experimenting, exploring, being bold. Subsequent drafts are
about honing, clarifying, simplifying. Deodorizing.
Penny’s words give me courage. Okay, my first drafts are crap, but they’re more than that. They’re about “experimenting, exploring, being bold.” I can dream big, make mistakes, create huge plot holes, mess up timelines, create story lines that won’t eventually work. What I’m doing is producing raw materials I can work with later. As I write, I create a list of problems to deal with later. I tell myself, “I can fix that.”
Some writers think of revision as copy editing, filling plot holes, correcting pacing, tweaking language, eliminating overused words. All that is true. But to me, revision means exactly what it says: re-vision, seeing the story again with new eyes. I don’t actually know what my story is about until I’ve completed the first draft.
That’s when the fun begins.
Do Louise Penny’s words give you courage?
Head over to Facebook and let us know.