Quotes about Revisions from Famous Authors

After posting up some of the rejection letters that famous authors received, I thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say about the revisions process. Some of these quotations are about editorial comments; others about that excruciating process we all go through of trying to find more time to write less.

“Books aren’t written- they’re rewritten.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”  Michael Crichton

“Half my life is an act of revision.”  John Irving

“What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.”  Thomas Wolfe

“Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”  Oscar Wilde

“Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid  ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?’” James Thurber

“There are two kinds of editors, those who correct your copy and those who say it’s wonderful.” Theodore H. White 

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

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  Ernest Hemingway

“I think the only person a writer has an obligation to is himself. If what I write doesn’t fulfill something in me, if I don’t honestly feel it’s the best I can do, then I’m miserable.” Truman Capote 

“I have never thought of myself as a good writer. But I’m one of the world’s great rewriters.” James A. Michener

 “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” H.G. Wells

“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

“An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do but who has escaped the terrible desire to write.” E. B. White

And perhaps my favourite because it hits so close to home: “The self-criticism of a tired mind is suicide.” Charles Horton Cooley


 Check out Penguin Canada’s book trailer for The Beggar’s Opera  here! It’s pretty cool!

This entry was posted in Editors, Getting Published, Revisions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Quotes about Revisions from Famous Authors

  1. sam says:

    It’s good to know that we’re in great company at revision land hotel 😀


  2. These are great! Thanks. I’m following now, and look forward to more.


  3. whew – I’m not alone after all. I wrote my novel in 7 weeks and have been revising it now for 7 years. And we thought lawyers and doctors practiced. Seems writers practice most of all. Thanks Peggy!! I’m encouraged to keep trying.


    • Peggy Blair says:

      Ha! Yes, I still see things in mine (published) that I would change if given a chance. I’m like the artist who keeps sneaking into the Louvre with his paintbrush to touch up his painting :-).


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