on revision

Friday, November 21st, 2003

Over at Jason’s Blurty they’re discussing revision, a subject which grew out of a conversation in Creative Writing.

In my mind the real work of writing happens during revision and the metaphor for the process grew from M. Angelo per discussion. We mustn’t, however, take the metaphor too seriously. Nor should we take the 30 revision number as an absolute. No one knows how many revisions any given story will take until, of course, a story is done.

Learning to write stories, which is different from learning to tell them orally, has a lot to do with experience and lots of reading of the kinds of stories a writer enjoys writing. But revision is rule-less. All we know is that character and narrative force happen slowly in development. First comes the inspirational rush, then the detailed and slow rewriting for form. How many times to go over? Who knows. Intuitions claims as many times as necessary. Reason claims how many times? One story may demand many, others not so much.

Other than that I have no answers. I do know that self-perception can be powerfully deceptive. The writer teaches this: if you think that one thing is right and proper, you’re most likely wrong. Whatever is believed true should be held with the greatest skepticism (translation: if you believe the story is done, you’re wrong). This is not my idea though: it’s Hugh’s. If you can live with this, then write. If not, then fill your down time building model cars.

Remember the arialists.


3 responses to “on revision”

  1. Maureen says:

    “If you believe the story is done, you’re wrong…”

    Then when is a story truly done? Perhaps never…

    Perhaps a story is just one part of a continuum…[Does that make sense?]

    We all know that we can go back and revise over and over again any paper or story we have done in the past… The years go by..Perspectives change..We have more experiences…All this changes us as a writer…So whatever we create at 16..will be different from what we create when we reach 40..it has to be…

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with revision..Revision means the story or idea is still alive.. Just because a story has been completed does not mean that it is truly “done”…

    That is the beauty of writing… You never really reach the pinnacle.. There is always one more mountain to climb… If only you allow yourself the journey…

    Most Graciously,

    Maureen
    *A Mayde in her own little woode…

  2. Christopher says:

    My own feelings are that revisions can be both a good and bad thing. A revision that leads down a bad path can sour the writer to the work (at least in my own experience). Other times a revision can lead to an entirely new level of discovery, as happened to me recently in my story.

    I do remember the arialists, and I thank them daily for that lovely Sans-Serif Font. :-)

  3. Spinning says:

    WRITING: More on Editing and Revision

    On this morning’s run I found some more advice on editing and revision. This, which is a part of The Word Foundry (linked here on Spinning). And this advice to a young William Shakespeare from the VCU Arts Seminar: “Bill