Sunday, May 08, 2011

The Mystery of Revision

The other day I took out a manuscript that I haven’t looked at for months.

I haven't yet opened the file, and I don’t know what I’m going to find when I turn to the first page and begin reading.

But, most likely, I’ll want to make changes.

I don’t think any writer can re-read work without feeling the need to make changes, even when the work has been in print for years.

There’s always a new way to look at the words on the page.

That’s because we’ve changed in the time that we’ve spent away from the words.

Minutes, days, weeks, months, years–time away from our words will always give us a new perspective on how the words appear on the page, how they make us feel, and what they let us see.

Even if we don’t feel any change, we've changed from who we were to who we are now.

And this change gives us the opportunity to understand the story in a new way, to see how a different word might make an image clearer or how the words themselves might be crafted differently to give the reader a more precise picture.

There's a well-known saying among writers: Time is the best editor.

It's true.

It’s all part of the mystery of revision.

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