A Valuable Lesson About Revision

photo by Rami / Flickr

photo by Rami / Flickr

These last few months, I have been busily working on material for Scratch, a digital magazine I’m launching this fall with Manjula Martin. (I’ll be ready to tell you more in a couple weeks.)

I have spent more time rewriting my work than writing it, which I expected. Or, I believe the old adage is true: “Writing is rewriting.”

In his essay for Glimmer Train, Phil Tate discusses a valuable lesson of rewriting, or revision:

Willful expansion adds stuff. Some of it is good, some of it is not, and forcing myself to cut deeply—not only when it was good enough but when it was good—made a stronger, more tightly focused story.

Read Tate’s full essay here. (And stay tuned to Scratch here.)

Other pieces from Glimmer Train this month:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Barbara McDowell Whitt
Barbara McDowell Whitt

Jane, I am eager to learn more about Scratch. Among my memorable moments was when a Kansas City Star editor phoned me about an article I had submitted for publication and told me, “Let me start by saying you write very well.” He went on to say he had learned in journalism school that “…what you leave out is as important as what you leave in.” I am glad to have lived long enough to experience the age of the Internet. Since my blog, A 1961-1965 Park College Diary is, at this time, merely a transcription of the diary entries… Read more »


Kenzaburoi Oe wrote a pretty famous essay titled “Keshigomu de kaku” — writing with an eraser. 🙂


While revision is important, I just want to note that not everyone agrees that cutting is the heart of revision. Fitzgerald famously said that writers were either putter-inners or taker-outers, and while he clearly favored the latter, not everyone did. Among others, Proust, Joyce, Faulkner, and Melville were all likely putter-inners. Not bad company.


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