When I remember how ferocious revising can be– that it’s tearing down, peeling away, sanding, brushing off, discovering–I can get the real work done. It’s a comfort to know revision is re-visioning, casting a new light on your draft, seeing new connections.
Some of my favorite quotes and advice about revision:
I always throw the first draft away, saying ‘that’s no good!’ Then I enter into the act with a kind of fury, writing madly for four, five, even eight hours. –Charles Bukowski
What a bitch of a thing prose is! It is never finished: there is always something to be done over.--Gustave Flaubert
Hemingway: “I rewrote the ending to Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.” Interviewer: “Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?” Hemingway: “Getting the words right.”
A great book is always accompanied by a painful birth. Myself, I work every day. I write entirely by hand. I know what the ‘flash’ of inspiration is, but I also try to put some discipline into my life and my work.–Faulkner
Often I shift things from the very beginning to the very end.–Eudora Welty
[Revising] is just as great as the pleasure of writing. This is what I call ‘taking the ax to your work.’ I mean chopping it to pieces. You see it now from a wholly new vantage point. You have a new perspective on it. And you take a delight in killing even some of the most exciting passages, because they don’t fit, they don’t sound right to your critical ear. I truly enjoy this slaughter-house aspect of the game. You may not believe it, but it’s true. –Henry Miller