Monday, May 23, 2016

Facing the Words

My desk!

 JoAnn gave her wisdom on writing everything in longhand first. This helps to connect with the words. I also write everything out, including my novels! I do the first and second revision by hand as well. It's a very intensive process that forces you to "face" the words, as JoAnn said. I love that phrase!

Of course, there have been many studies that have explored the benefits of writing longhand. The process helps writers retain information, a necessary task as we weave character and plot! It helps the writer to maintain focus, and it keeps the brain sharp (and at my age, I need all the help I can get!). Of course, writers understand the significance of revision, in which we are literally re-seeing our story. But what a challenge to teach the process to students! I like to share what other writers do to help illustrate the process. It can be very inspiring to read how others approach their process.

 Here are some of my favorite inspirations:

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile." (Robert Cormier)

"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)

"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—wholeheartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, On the Art of Writing, 1916)

"Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that's what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings) ... I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: 'Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10%. Good luck.' (Stephen King, On Writing, 2000)

Photo credit: rfduck via

"I enjoy writing and it is hard. But then it's hard for everyone to write well. I have to rewrite over and over again so that on average it takes me a year to write a book." (Avi)

"The first draft is a skeleton--just bare bones. It's like the very first rehearsal of a play, where the director moves the actors around mechanically to get a feel of the action. Characters talk without expression. In the second draft, I know where my characters are going, just as the director knows where his actors will move on the stage. But it's still rough and a little painful to read. By the third draft, the whole thing is taking shape. I have enough glimmers from the second draft to know exactly what I want to say. There may be two or three more drafts after the third to polish it up. But the third is the one where it all comes together for me." (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)

“I'm a rewriter. That's the part I like best...once I have a pile of paper to work with, it's like having the pieces of a puzzle. I just have to put the pieces together to make a picture.” (Judy Blume)

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right. (Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review Interview, 1956)

"Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out." (Kurt Vonnegut, How to Use the Power of the Printed Word, 1985)

"By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this." (Roald Dahl)

Do you have any favorite inspirations?

Bobbi Miller


Carmela Martino said...

Terrific inspiration, Bobbi. I especially like:
"Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10%"
I'm impressed that you do so much work longhand on your novels!

Laurie J. Edwards said...

What great advice, Bobbi! Thanks for sharing the inspiration.

Rebecca C said...

Great reminders and quotes here! It took ages for me to realize that you don't have to get it right the first time. It's hard not to want everything to read perfect the first time but you have to get something down on paper and then do the work making it better.

Kathy Halsey said...

Great collection of inspiring quotes for writers of any age. We all need to hear that it must be done over and over to become great. "Do-overs" are always needed. Thank you, Bobbi.

Pat McDermott said...

I enjoyed this post, Bobbi. Lots of good reminders, especially for those many "feeling discouraged" times.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Bobbi! I will try to remember, even when it breaks my egocentric little scribbler's heart! xox

Christina Banach said...

What an inspiring post, Bobbi. Thank you. Off to share this now!

Bobbi Miller said...

Marti: Thank you for your kind words! You know, I've always written my projects out by hand, and so developed my routine long before I entered the digital age. In fact, I once thought I should finally enter the 21st century (during a semester at VC, in fact, because deadlines were fast and furious), and I tried to write my draft on a computer. I could not do it. So now, I just go with the flow...of ink!

Bobbi Miller said...

Rebecca: I so agree! Even writing it out by hand, I still carried the silly notion that it "had to be perfect" before I type it onto my computer. Now, I do as many drafts as it takes to get it done. Before I type it in, and after.

Laura, Kathy, Pat and Christina: I'm so glad you found this post helpful. Thank you for your kind words!

JoAnn: Hugs to you and your "little scribbler's heart"! You were the inspiration for my post. I love your phrase, "face" the words. Indeed!

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Great quotes!

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Anonymous said...

Great post! Wonderful to hear how these authors all struggle through many drafts in much the same manner. Certainly balances out how quickly some books are produced these days. I think a lot of would-be authors often give up before they reach the revision that works. In the same way a would-be oil painter might quit before that last gorgeous layer.

Bobbi Miller said...

Marcia: Very wise words and an apt analogy using the painter! Thank you!