Rewrite and revise until done

Jun 23, 2014 | Better Writing

When I handed in the draft of my first book to John, I expected praise.

A Hard Lesson

“Are you serious?” John had spent only about thirty seconds looking at the manuscript of my first book. He was the editor who hired me to do the job.

“Come around here.” He motioned me to his side of the desk. I looked over his shoulder as he marked up the first page of my beloved manuscript. He covered the page with marks and comments.

“And this,” he said, “is just the first page. How many times did you revise this?”

I sensed trouble, “Three,” I lied.

“Try at least three more.”

I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I thought my work was good. But John had been an editor longer than I had been alive. My ego said he was wrong. My head knew better.

John saw my distress. He waved me back to my seat. Then he leaned forward.

Great writers rewrite and revise

“Look,” he began, “you’ve got good instincts and pretty good skills. You work really hard. But you will never be the writer you want to be if you think you can get by with a draft or two.”

I started to say something, but John held up his hand. “I know,” he said, “you think what you just wrote is the best thing ever. Right?”

I nodded. John went on, “We all think that. We’re all wrong.”

Great writing really is rewriting. If you want to produce great writing, rewriting is how you get there.