Tuesday Tips – Famous Authors on Editing

July 23, 2013


Ah editing. Some writers thrive with a red pen in hand, while others dread the rewriting, the rethinking, and inevitably, the hours spent on material that never gets used. Regardless, being a good self-editor or having a strong approach towards editing is key to publishing work. Here, we’ve listed several notable authors and their advice on editing.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard

“For me, a good writing day is when I can move forward inside a story, because I take so much pleasure in tinkering with sentences that I often have to fight my own impulse to dither and revise in order to keep the momentum of the narrative going.” — Karen Russell

“In fact, you know what I threw out this morning? During that time in Germany I wrote 200 pages of my next novel, but because of the other projects, this multi-year, multi-project run, I just now pulled out those 200 pages again and went through them, and worked on them for the last couple of weeks…and I threw them all out today. And I’m feeling light as a feather.” — Nathan Englander

“Remember, when people tell you something is wrong or it doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” — Neil Gaiman

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you are inclined to write ‘very’ and your editor will delete it and your writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.” — Edgar Allen Poe

“I often find, I am not constructing a story, but exfoliating an idea that’s usually caught in a metaphor.” — William H. Gass

“After it received 37 rejections, it was purchased for the lowest amount of money my literary agent had ever negotiated for a work of fiction. So keep writing.” — Daniel Handler

“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.” — Valdimir Nabokov

“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity . . . edit one more time!” — CK Webb

And even though we’ve all heard this one before, this bell rings the loudest and often the truest:

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” — Stephen King

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