Publishing and Media

Don’t Be Lazy, Revise! Nobody Else Is Going to Do It for You!

The excellent organization Glimmer Train used to provide subscribers with a booklet called “Writers Ask,” in which fiction writers talk about their craft, work habits, challenges, and other matters to do with putting words into an interesting order and getting them printed by a publisher.

Here’s Antonya Nelson on the students who come to her writing workshops.

A resistance to revision is the most frustrating thing about students. I’m sure it was the most frustrating thing about me as a student writer. I really had to learn to write the revisions. . . . The commitment to the first draft, that’s the most tiresome thing about teaching students. When they say, “I want it to be confusing. I want it to be ungrammatical. I want it to be a big freaking mess.” Well, I don’t. You get an F.

Here’s Charles Johnson talking about advice that was given to him by the late John Gardner about editing one’s manuscript.

He [Gardner] said the real danger for a well-known writer is that you don’t get edited; nobody touches your stuff. He said that when you submit your manuscript, it has to be perfect. You can’t expect an editor to work through every line. You have to do it all yourself before you send it in. But you still need a good copy editor and a good editor to ask questions like, “Don’t we need a scene for that? Isn’t this an idea you want to reinforce later in the book?” You need another eye, but you don’t always get it. John taught me that I had to do much of that work myself.