Here are 10 quotations from writers and editors that underscore the importance of editing (or revision).
[I'm greatly obliged to Dr Mardy Grothe for this list.]
Sit down, and 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.
Cut out all those exclamation marks.
An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers:
when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.
A writer is unfair to himself when he is unable to be hard on himself.
Editing is the same as quarreling with writers — same thing exactly.
In composing, as a general rule, run a pen through every other word
you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.
It is with words as with sunbeams —
the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.
Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise.
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words,
a paragraph no unnecessary sentences,
for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines
and a machine no unnecessary parts.
William Strunk, Jr.
Writing is not like painting where you add.
It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees.
Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove,
you eliminate in order to make the work visible.
Even those pages you remove somehow remain.
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.
My favourites? Fitzgerald's quote on the unnecessary use of exclamation marks and the one by Elmore Leonard which says so much (without saying as much) on why everything we write must be written keeping our audience in mind.
- ADDITIONAL READING: "Line editing in 10 easy steps".