"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of The Big Reap, The Wrong Goodbye and Dead Harvest.

"Bagley's got the poet's eye, but that doesn't mean everything is prettier in his work. It means the ugly stuff is more vivid. More intense. Like a sudden switch from analog to HD. And that's a trait to very much admire in his work." --Anthony Neil Smith, author of Hogdoggin', Yellow Medicine, The Drummer and Psychosomatic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Carver on Gardner on Revision

I print this out and give it to my students every semester:

“It was a basic tenet of [Gardner’s] that a writer found what he wanted to say in the ongoing process of seeing what he’d said. And this seeing, or seeing more clearly, came about through revision. He believed in revision, endless revision; it was something very close to his heart and something he felt was vital for writers, at whatever stage of their development.” —Raymond Carver, from his foreword to John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist.


Paul Brazill said...

Spot on.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, but does there come a point where you can revise a story to death? I love doing rewrites and finding out what the story is all about, but sometimes I feel like it loses some of the magic of that first draft.

I'm not against revisions, just wondering how you know when to stop, how you know that you've gotten the story right.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

True, but you notice he didn't say anything about how much of a pain in the ass it is.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Yeah, there's a certain magical feel to your first draft because you're high on the creative process, but every first draft is full of stinky stuff that needs reworking. Revision is your creative self working alongside your critical self. Even then, you miss things. I still tinker with poems and stories of mine that have already been published. You have to trust yourself.

It can be a pain in the ass. After four drafts of BITTER WATER BLUES, I've had enough. That doesn't mean the job is done, though. Any editor who takes on the book (assuming Hell freezes over and it gets published) is going to send me back for more revision. However, the novel has gotten better with each rewrite.