Revision Week: Part 4 (A Few Great Quotes)

“In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” — T.S. Eliot

For the end of “Revision Week,” I thought I’d quickly throw up some quotes that I’ve come across recently, or recently remembered and found again.

“What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.” — Thomas Wolfe

“I’m a rewriter. That’s the part I like best…once I have a pile of paper to work with, it’s like having the pieces of a puzzle. I just have to put the pieces together to make a picture.” — Judy Blume.

“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

Comment: I love this one, and I think it goes directly to the heart of both revision and the spirit of the first draft. I have not read Nye’s work. I’ve learned she’s a poet who has published some picture books and YAs. This one got a starred review from Booklist:

“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.” — Colette

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”— Elmore Leonard.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain

2 comments

  1. Parker says:

    I really enjoyed hearing about your revision process. I hope you’ll do another revision week again soon.

    And I agree that King’s ON WRITING is great.

  2. jimmy says:

    Parker, I always appreciate you coming round. Thanks.

    I always try to find a balance on this blog, and things like “revision week” sometimes strikes me as too much navel-gazing. Like, who cares.

    As you can see, I don’t often get a ton of response, so it’s difficult to divine what readers actually like or don’t like. Amazingly, overall readership continues to grow steadily — in 12,500 years I’m going to be as big as ESPN.com.

    That said: Isn’t that writing in a nutshell? You can’t worry too much about the reader, what he/she/it wants. I just keep coming back to the same advice: “Follow your enthusiasms.”

    And hope somebody cares.

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