Thursday, May 16, 2013


"The first draft is a creative process, and I'm the artist or the writer at that point. When I finish, I become an editor--it's a little schizophrenic--and the editor doesn't have nearly the fun the writer has." -- Lanford Wilson

Revising is the toughest (and most important) part of the writing process. Most of the hard work is revision. It can take days, weeks, months, even years to finish a really solid piece of writing. Even longer if you want to make it art. Sound discouraging? It's not meant to be. Writing isn't for the lazy. It's work. The finished product is something to be proud of.

As a beginning writer, the toughest thing you can do is cut. How do you know what to cut? I think it's instinct. You'll feel it in your gut. If you question a line of dialogue or a scene or a character or simply a sentence--cut it. Trust those instincts.

Remember, this is your story. I know it's easy to get overwhelmed with feedback in workshop. I think it's good to get all sorts of feedback as a beginner. Workshops allow you a variety of different perspectives on your work. You're all relatively new and sometimes you just don't know what works until you put something out there and people tell you how they read your stuff. This is another part of the process. You can take or leave any comments made in workshop. Some of it is helpful; some of it is useless. That's workshop. In the end, you have to decide on what needs to be done. This is your writing. Not ours.

One of the hardest things for some of us to learn is to trust ourselves. Start practicing now. Even if you don’t think you “know” anything about writing or journalism, you’ve been reading it for practically your whole lives. Try to get some perspective on your own work. Ask yourself with as much distance as possible, “If I came across this in a magazine or newspaper, would I want to read it? Once I started it, would I keep reading it to the end?” Then try to answer as specifically as possible why or why not. Then get back in there and make it something you wouldn’t put down.

Revision is not the same as polishing. It isn’t simply a matter of fixing typos, moving around a sentence or paragraph or two, or making other minor line edits others point out. Revision means implosion. It means taking risks. It means moving the piece to the next level by making bold choices in a new direction. To see it, and then make it anew. Writing is rewriting. Rewriting is revision.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Marin, this actually means a lot in the sort of scheme of things we are used to being taught.