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#atozchallenge : R is for Rewriting #fiction #writing #quotes

Theme: Quotes from Authors and Bookish People about Writing

The A to Z Challenge is past its midway mark, and we’re still at it, blog visits, comments, making friends. I feel exhausted, but also rewarded. Meeting so many nice new people gives you a buzz nothing else can.

In the world of fiction, nothing kills buzz faster than the rewriting phase. Personally, I like it, it gives me perspective, and like tweaking everything I’d gorged out in the earlier drafts. And sometimes for me, rewriting is not just tweaks, it is re-imagining. I’ve gone and thrown away entire short stories and novels, because I felt I could tell the story better in some other way, or because the characters needed more room or less.

Here’s what authors who know what they are talking about have to say on the matter:

“The first draft of anything is shit.”—  Ernest Hemingway

“Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it
away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the
corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the
life they need.”
— Helen Dunmore

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but
then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as
right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or
criticize it.”
— Stephen King

“I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times–once to
understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to
compel it to say what it still must say.”
— Bernard Malamud

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

“There’s no reason you shouldn’t, as a writer, not be aware of the
necessity to revise yourself constantly. More than a half, maybe as much
as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I
have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind
of stamina. I can rewrite sentences over and over again, and I do. . . .And I think what I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t
put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times
you can redo something.”
— John Irving

“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on
paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite
in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also
interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of
unconscious association with the material.”
— John Steinbeck
Do you rewrite your story? How many times do you do it? After reading a book, did you ever wish a writer had rewritten more of it?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Sho Nique says:

    I have to agree with John Steinbeck and also question… isn't that what editors are for?

  • I typically rewrite things to death. I'm with you–it's amazing reimagining the scene and really getting into the character's heads. Super fun.

    True Heroes from A to Z

  • GSMarlene says:

    I enjoy editing even more than writing. Good thing my writing needs so much re-writing.
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  • Love that Stephen King quote. Ain't that the truth?

  • Someone told me that rewriting is where the art is. I think they were right. Without rewriting to sculpt and shape my writing into something purposeful with a trajectory the reader can follow, it's a collection of words, not a novel.

  • I tend to rewrite at least four times from my experience so far. I am about to start the fourth rewrite of my latest thriller, 'Amsterdam Calling'. I'm aiming to publish the eBook in mid-June, but if it isn't ready, I'd rather push the date back than affect the standard I'm trying to maintain.

  • Irving's quote spoke to me–a unique kind of stamina. Love it. I'm generally not content to do write the whole book in one go like Steinbeck suggests. I revise as I go using Elizabeth Berg's method (edit yesterday's work as a warm up, then continue moving the story forward).

    I actually prefer revision to drafting. I'm way out of my comfort zone getting the first messy words out.

  • Pam Margolis says:

    Plenty of times I wish writers had re-written their work.

  • Nima Das says:

    Good read

  • Great quotes (I especially liked Steinbeck's), and I need all the encouragement I can get to rewrite. I am presently 'trying' to rewrite a novel, which I find more difficult than I did writing it in the first place.
    Thank you for commenting on my blog, Amloki. I haven't forgotten you, it's just the frenzy of the A-Z that's interrupting my flow.

  • A nice and encouraging words for the novice writers. I like writing but I often lack ways to make it complete. Some 2 years ago, I withdrew the idea to continue writing a book that was almost forming a shape. But now, I am encourage from a professional writers from you all.
    Thank you.

  • As i am not a writer but a steno to my characters my process is simple. The characters that i see is the raw entry. Some times two or three characters would mix with each other and may form another character. After some times the characters start speaking to themselves and i was asked to transcribe their talks. i am not allowed to make any changes or amendments. i am permitted to weep, cry and laugh.

  • Hey nice read…I am kinda scared of proof reading my stuff…when i am writing I am in this hurry to just post it. After a few days when I read it again, I realize the mistakes- forget the flow there are plenty of spell and grammar mistakes as well..I correct those but not anything else.

  • faeriembassy says:

    I re write – sometimes a little tweaking other times a complete refit . I have learnt to chuck the whole thing and start again or move onto something else. I try to perfect a rhythm a melody – this is important to me. and sometiimes I will have a tiny tweak on pieces that I wrote a long time ago . sI am learning to know when to stop
    and mostly that is when it is singing to me.
    Sandra a to z er 'life without television'

  • klahanie says:

    Hey Damyanti,

    How R U? Never have the need to rewrite. I just actually do go with the flow and what do you know, it's good at my show.

    Thank goodness this silly A to Z will soon be over. I miss my blogging friends 🙂


  • Cheryl KP says:

    I tend to agree with Steinbeck. I am doing a lot of revising with my work in publishing it on the blog; and stil, it will need work before an attempt to pubish it. I look at writing as a metamorphosis?

  • KT Did says:

    I don't consider myself a writer. Just a blogger. So what goes out of my head is on the paper/net. If I had to rewrite, I might just lose the thought.
    Katy Did

    Life's Ride In Between

  • I've had several stories that I've rewritten multiple times – one of my novels I reworked four times before I was happy with it, even going so far as to change the continent it was set on 🙂

    I haven't read a book and straight off thought the writer should have rewritten more of it, but I have watched a movie which I loved and gone to read the book and hated it, so I have thought the screenwriters did a better job (not very often I have to say though) – this happened with Haunted, a brilliant movie with Aidan Quinn and Kate Beckinsale and a not so brilliant book by James Herbert,
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles – A to Z Ghosts
    Fantasy Boys XXX – A to Z Drabblerotic

  • The rewriting phase is fun for me. In the first draft, I follow where the story leads me but forget the details. Going back and editing lets me immerse myself in the lives of the characters I created.
    Gail visiting for AtoZ

  • Excellent advice, but Bernard Malamuds quote seals it for me.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    These are all great quotes to keep in mind. I love re-writing and I hate it.

  • I really like Bernard Malamud's quote.

  • pretty nice blog, following 🙂

  • This is very helpful, since I'm just at the re-writing stage. Great quotes!