Look Again Revision

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

—Vladimir Nabokov

Books aren't written—they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.

—Michael Crichton

The pleasure is the rewriting: The first sentence cannot be written until the final sentence is written. This is a koan-like statement, and I don't mean to sound needlessly obscure or mysterious, but it's simply true. The completion of any work automatically necessitates its revisioning.

—Joyce Carol Oates you just finished a short story. You are jubilant with the accomplishment and ready to send it off to your favorite magazine. But is it ready? Perhaps. Most likely, however, you have completed a draft that will need to be rewritten. It may take several drafts. You will need some time to see your work again, to bring your creative vision back to the writing. The revision process requires some distance from the initial creation. Let your story sit for a few days, at least. Start another narrative in the meantime.

When you return to your story, read it out loud. That's right, even if you are reading to the cat. Listening to your prose is important because you hear differently with your mind's ear than with your actual ear. As you read aloud, you will become aware of awkward passages. Since you have been working closely with the text, your eye may see what it wants to see, what you intended to write, on the page. Often, however, you will hear what your eye cannot see. Now read through it again with a pen. This time let your pen address the awkward or confusing moments.

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