I don't feel I have much to add to Bonnie's excellent video post on revision, so I thought you might enjoy hearing what some well-known authors have to say on the subject.
"You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lighting too much, the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by." "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say." (Exactly what our Bonnie said in her post.)
"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile."
"Books aren't written -- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the 7th rewrite hasn't quite done it."
"More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn't say I have a talent that's special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina."
"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." (This one gave me that "ugh!" feeling.)
"I can't write five words but that I can change seven."
To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again and once more, and over and over."
"When you write ... some things that come very late in the creation change what you were conceiving back when you started. Therefore, you have to go back and revise."
"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."
"It all depends on how you count, but I'd say the book (Noah's Compass) took four drafts. That's three longhand drafts before I entered it in the computer, and then I copied the computer version into longhand again. I read that fourth version into a tape recorder and then listened to the tape recorder while I followed along on the computer screen to pick up any minor changes I had made." (Wow, does THAT make me feel like a slacker!) "Ridiculous, I know. But it's more or less the way I've always done it, except for the three or four earliest books which I wrote without revising, under the mistaken impression that revising was a form of cheating. Nowadays, I love revising. I think of Draft One as work and the revisions as play."
"I'll vomit out the first draft: bare-bones, get-the-story-down. I don't edit and fiddle as I go, because I don't know what's going to happen next. Once I get the discovery draft down, then I'll go back to page one, chapter one, and then I start worrying about how it sounds, where I've made mistakes, where I've gone right, what else I have to add, where's the texture, where's the emotion. I start fixing. And then, after I've done that all the way through again, I'll go back one more time, and that's when I'm really going to worry about the language. And the rhythm, and making sure that I haven't made a mistake, that I've tied up all the loose ends reasonably. It doesn't necessarily mean everything ties up for every reader, because some want it one way and some want it another, and you just have to be true to the story, so it's all plausible at the end of the day."
"The way I work, I spend about a year putting a book together in my head. And when it's all laid out, I start to write. I do 95 percent of my revision in the first 50 pages. I'll throw out the 50 pages over and over and over again. Once I get that straight, then I'm on track, and I don't do a whole lot of revision. By the time I get to the end, I'm finished. I'll brush it up, but it goes off."
I enjoyed reading what other authors have to say about the topic of revision (and hope you did too) even though some of the comments are at odds with my own style. I HATE revision. HATE. IT. I do my best to write the first draft as though it were the last one. Whether or not I succeed is debatable, I'm sure. But that's just how I'm wired. That's not to say I don't make changes once I've finished the manuscript, not at all. I just do my best to keep them to a minimum, because, honestly, I can look at a clean screen and my imagination starts to play. But once I've written a page, a chapter, or a novel, I find it incredibly difficult to go back and "flesh it out" or expand on it.
I have so much to learn.
What about you? Where do you fit in to the revision dialogue? You love it, you hate it? You tolerate it? Talk to us.