Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Preaching to the choir

Tonight as I was browsing Barbara Kingsolver's website I came across an answer to an FAQ that sums up everything I want my life to be, everything I want for my writing. And like everything Ms. Kingsolver writes, these words speak perfectly to a part of my soul I can't even describe.

Do you go through a lot of drafts?

Gazillions. I adore revision. Whether it’s a two-page article or a 500-page book, I rewrite endlessly. I may rewrite the first paragraph of a novel fifty times before I’m satisfied. I comb through a manuscript again and again, altering every sentence a little or a lot. I don’t print out every draft on paper, or I’d be mowing down forests.
Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end. Revision is where fine art begins. It’s thrilling to take an ending and pull it backward like a shiny thread through the whole fabric of a manuscript, letting little glints shine through here and there. To plant resolution, like a seed, into chapter one. To create new scenes, investing a character with the necessary damage, the right kind of longing. To pitch out boldly and try again. To work every metaphor across the whole, back and forth, like weaving. I love that word “fabrication,” because making an elaborate fiction feels so much like making cloth.
Perfectionism is my disease. Revision is my milk and honey.

Amen, sister.


  1. And this my friend is why it takes me impossible amounts of time to write on silly little blog post!

  2. I suddenly feel less guilt about my disease-like perfectionism.