Writers on rewriting

Blog, Memoir

This indiereader.com article is a really useful survey of published authors’ thoughts about revision and editing their own work. How encouraging to read that the bestselling Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) regards his first drafts as “almost always wretched”, and that Jacqueline Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) “approaches [revisions] with great joy, as I would a Red Cross truck in a disaster.”

For many years I self-censored my own ideas for stories and articles in the erroneous and irrational belief that a writer needed only inspiration to translate their ideas into beautifully formed sentences and paragraphs on their very first pages. This I now attribute to a terrible perfectionism coupled with forced attendance at lectures on the Romantic poets at the University of Sydney. Keats and Co left us a legacy of some wonderful poems but also an unhelpful cultural trope of the writer as tortured genius. Even as I wrote my PhD and followed that up by years of working with other authors on their manuscripts, I could not connect the practical and creative work of revising drafts with my unreasonably strict idea of what constituted “writing”. I’m a very slow learner at times, but the process of writing my memoir fixed all that.

By the way, while the Indie Reader website appears to cater to a readership of self-published authors, the long list of – how shall I put it? – traditionally published authors quoted in this piece makes it a valuable resource for everyone.

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