Monday, August 18, 2014

Revision 101: Quotes and Links to Help You On Your Way

Revision requires an author to see her work with new eyes. Here are some quotes and links I used in my revision class last spring. I hope they point you in the right direction with your own work:

Quotes from Novel Metamorphosis:

Revision: What is the most dramatic way to tell this story?

“Revisions are the messy route toward powerful stories. ...I never tell someone how to revise their story. Instead, I ask you to look at your story in different ways, apply various strategies of revisions, and tell your story, your way. You are in control and will make all the decisions yourself.”

“Competence is a hard-won prize that only comes with lots of study and practice.”

Quotes from Second Sight:

“When you’re writing that first draft, don’t worry about following the rules. Instead, tell yourself the story you’ve always wanted to hear, the story you’ve never read anywhere else, the one that scares you with the pleasure of writing it. Treasure the joy of the work, because it is hard work, but when you can find that just-right word, that perfect plot twist -- there are fewer greater pleasures.”

“Editors work forward from the manuscript to make its truth all it can be...paying attention to details that add up to an overall result.”

“Good prose repeats words in close proximity to each other only by strategy or design, not by accident or sloppiness.”

“I test every sentence against the question ‘What purpose doest this serve?’”

“An editor’s greatest joy is a writer who can recognize his own weaknesses and respond with an intelligent revision.”

“For a writer, an artist, making a choice gives you something to work with. You make a choice, get the words on the page, see if it feels right. If it doesn’t, you edit it or go back and make a different decision. The hardest thing is getting past the fear of making a choice at all.”

Saul Bellow: “The main reason for rewriting is not to achieve a smooth surface, but to discover the inner truth of your characters.”

“As you’re sitting down to write, you need to ask yourself: Am I writing a specific story that could only happen to this character in this world, in this time? What am I trying to say with this story? What do I want my readers to think when they put my book down?”

“What questions or mysteries does your first line raise?”

“Just because you put it first doesn’t mean that your current opening section is the real beginning.”

“Be a curator, not a camera...Believe it or not, most beginning writers will transcribe, as if they were a video camera...Another big mistake is focusing on transition scenes because you think you need to show how a character gets from one place to another.”


Novelists: You Are Gifted and Talented :: Darcy Pattison
WFMAD The Bones of the Writing Process, Parts 1 and 2 :: Laurie Halse Anderson
23 Essential Quotes from Ernest Hemingway About Writing :: The Write Practice
WFMAD (Write Fifteen Minutes a Day) Revision Roadmap #18 :: Laurie Halse Anderson
WFMAD Temper Tantrums and Do Overs :: Laurie Halse Anderson
I don’t want an honest critique :: Darcy Pattison
WFMAD Getting Feedback on Your Story :: Laurie Halse Anderson
WFMAD Belonging to a Critique Group Without Murdering Anyone :: Laurie Halse Anderson
Balancing Thoughts, Description, Dialogue, and Action :: Between the Lines: Edits and Everything Else
Novel Revision Charts: 2 Tools for Smart Re-Thinking of Your Story :: Darcy Pattison

What quotes, techniques, or tips have you found helpful when it comes to revision?


  1. This is full of great gems. Thanks Caroline!

    1. Helpful to read through all these quotes again this morning.

  2. “Good prose repeats words in close proximity to each other only by strategy or design, not by accident or sloppiness.” - my fave!

    1. Yes! I feel like this is one thing writing verse novels has really shown me. You work with so few words, it becomes very evident when the "accident or sloppiness" sort of repetition slips in.

    2. It's also a great reason why more than one set of eyes makes such a difference. Having distance from the text helps you not glaze over.

  3. Wow...just a treasure trove of a post. Thanks!

  4. Yes! Fantastic curation of these quotes and links. Invaluable to me.

    1. Each time I look again, I see something I need to consider/focus on.

  5. Super! Thanks for this!

    1. Always happy to know this sort of thing helps others.

  6. Revision can't be done in one swipe. You have to let it simmer in between each revision. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

    1. Coming next month (and the one after): quotes and links on character and plot.

  7. This is most helpful, Caroline! Thank you. Love the Saul Bellow quote. My favorite quote is from Strunk and White's Elements of Style: "Omit needless words."

    1. Yes. I think so often those words end up there because we think our readers need them, when really they are more savvy than that.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!