1. Erasmus B. Dragon
    Offline

    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2013
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    2

    A History of Revision

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Erasmus B. Dragon, Jul 8, 2013.

    A link to this article from the Boston Globe came across my Facebook feed this morning, and I thought it was worth sharing. It discusses the evolution of the revision process from the paper-scarce days of Shakespeare to the Modernists. There are some interesting points here, including the idea of revising too much.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/06/29/revising-your-writing-again-blame-modernists/WhoH6Ih2kat2RE9DZV3DjP/story.html
     
  2. A.Tad.of.Conrad
    Offline

    A.Tad.of.Conrad Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2013
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    1
    Great read. A couple of my own works have also turned out almost the opposite of what I intended them to be thanks to revision. :)
     
  3. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Sometimes I think the worst thing a new writer can do is believe in "the first draft is always crap". Then they get to the revision 'stage' and become so disheartened the ms ends up in the drawer. Not to say it doesn't work for many writers, but when people say, as mentioned in the article, that the final version is nothing like the original, I can't help but think they could have saved themselves some trouble if they'd just written the new story to begin with...
     
  4. Man in the Box
    Offline

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil
    I think if the first draft doesn't have terrible mistakes, it should be built upon, not discarded. Usually my draft is good in terms of grammar, so that's not the problem for me. IMO, rewrites are necessary for fixing plot points, or when you want to write the same scene focusing on different things, or to fix cheese.
     
  5. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    This is an interesting article, but I'm not sure how much it applies to most of us. There are a great many more writers working today than in the nineteenth century (for example), and the increase in publishing opportunities (at least until the advent of the internet, with its blogs and self-publishing) have not kept pace. There's more competition today than ever before between writers who seek traditional publication. This means we have to write as well as we possibly can in order to be considered for publication. In the nineteenth century, writers could get away with being fairly lousy. That's probably the main reason so few nineteenth-century writers have survived.

    Spontaneity does not always equal quality, or even basic publishability. Go ahead and cite Kerouac and the other Beats all you like; their movement has not survived. Beat writing was new and different in the Fifties, but now it seems like a batch of somewhat interesting fossils. We're back to revising because it works.

    Also, some writers (like me) discover their stories and their meanings as they write. Didn't somebody once say "How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" That applies to me and to many others like me. My first draft teaches me what my story is really about, and it winds up being a huge mess because I was going in too many different directions with it. I treat it the way a sculptor treats a block of marble: the story is in there somewhere, and I have to chisel it out. That's what revision is. Another analogy I like is from John Gardner: He said writing is like digging into rock mining for iron; if your pickaxe turns up a nugget of silver, you'd be foolish not to follow the silver and forget the iron.

    Whether or not to revise also depends, I think, on the writer's habits of thought. My guess is that in the old days, when paper and ink were expensive, writers would stare into space, assembling their sentences and maybe whole paragraphs in their heads before setting their pens to paper. They took their time, working their ideas, their imagery, and their prose in their heads so they'd only have to write it once. Now, we just dive right in and spew our stuff as fast as we can, knowing we'll fix everything in later drafts.

    I guess there are some writers, albeit very few, who can write well with barely any revision. Most of us, though, have to work a little harder.
     
  6. heal41hp
    Offline

    heal41hp Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Oklahoma, USA
    Thank you for sharing! I love reading about stuff like this. :)

    I self-published a novel when I was 19. I started writing it when I was 13. I pretty much tweaked the first draft and that was it. I felt like revision and all that extra stuff that would never get published was a waste of time. Now, looking back at it (when I can stomach it), I think it's serious cr*p. Of course, it could've just been because of my age and immaturity at the time of writing rather than the lack of revising. There's no way of knowing. Either way, I'm a huge proponent of both things I felt were a waste of time. I feel they make things so much better.

    I think revision can be overdone, though. I'm not sure there's ever really a point when we can stop and say, "This is perfect." There will always be something that we feel needs to be tweaked, expanded, contracted, rewritten, reworded, etc. Has anyone ever reached a point where they felt their work had reached perfection and not just decided it was sufficiently good?
     
  7. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I think one has to distinguish between revising after writing the whole thing first, and revising as it's being written. Not waiting until the whole thing is done doesn't have to mean it's crap, and it doesn't mean less work. It just means we don't end up with that "huge mess" when we finish the last page. I really don't think the discussion is about revision per se but about when to do it, and how much. If I write a novel with the foregone conclusion that I'm going to heavily edit afterwards, it makes no sense to me to even start. Why not write the novel I want the first time?
     

Share This Page