Throw up into your typewriter…

Word count: 252 words

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers. Today’s weblink focuses on the important task of revision.

How much time do you spend revising your writing? If you’re like many of the people I coach, the answer is: “not nearly enough.” I frequently shock my students when I suggest they spend about 40 per cent of their so-called “writing time” on revising. This is because the best writers in the world are always the most accomplished rewriters.

New Yorker writer Brendan Gill (1914-1997) was famous for sophisticated and stylish approach to words. Few knew that he rewrote many of his articles 17 times. Seventeen! I think the problem is that most of us are surrounded by books and articles that have been rewritten, edited, copy edited and published. Somehow, we imagine that the words came out of the writer’s head just as they’re written on the page. Of course they didn’t! We just don’t see the work.

Recently, I discovered a collection of quotes from famous writers on the art of revision. They’re all instructive but here’s my favourite:  “Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.” It comes from Raymond Chandler.

Replace the word “typewriter” with “computer keyboard” and you have your instruction. (But check out the other quotes, too. There are some great ones.)

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