What 20 Famous Authors Had to Say About Rewriting


Some writers love writing the first draft, some prefer rewriting and editing. Whichever one you are, I hope you enjoy what these 20 famous author had to say about the process of rewriting.

  1. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. ~Elmore Leonard
  2. Among the questions that writers need to ask themselves in the process of revision–Is this the best word I can find? Is my meaning clear? Can a word or phrase be cut from this without sacrificing anything essential?–perhaps the most important question is: Is this grammatical? ~Francine Prose
  3. Rewriting is the essence of writing well – where the game is won or lost. ~William Zinsser
  4. 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
  5. I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. ~Truman Capote
  6. I have rewritten–often several times–every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers. ~Vladimir Nabokov
  7. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
  8. No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft. ~H.G. Wells
  9. Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. ~Samuel Johnson
  10. 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
  11. Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. ~Colette
  12. Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying. ~John Updike
  13. Writing is rewriting. A writer must learn to deepen characters, trim writing, intensify scenes. To fall in love with the first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing. ~Richard North Patterson
  14. Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts. ~Larry L. King
  15. 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
  16. When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done. ~Stephen King
  17. 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. ~John Irving
  18. There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them. ~Elie Wiesel
  19. Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. ~Helen Dunmore
  20. The process of rewriting is enjoyable, because you’re not in that existential panic when you don’t have a novel at all. ~Rose Tremain

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read:

  1. The 30 Best Quotes On Books And Reading
  2. 18 Fascinating Quotes About Families
  3. My 15 Favourite Quotes On Grammar
  4. The Top 21 Literary Quotes about Fools
  5. Nine Literary Scrabble Quotes
  6. The Top 12 Quotes On Writing Memoirs

 by Amanda Patterson

If you want to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Barbara Harper

    This is encouraging. I’ve been frustrated with the amount of revision my writing needs. It’s good to know that’s just part of the process.

  2. Damien

    Right now #18 resonates with me so much that I made a sound which scared my cat. It’s immeasurably encouraging to find commiseration in Writing Giants. (NB: cut six words from the original comment. Nullified of course by this lengthy Nota bene. Drat!)

Comments are now closed.