“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
- Elmore Leonard
Oh yes, we editors love to quote Elmore Leonard. “Why?” you may ask. It’s because he knew something about writing, and that’s because he knew everything about revision. That’s why he got the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He knew how to move a story along and reflect reality on the page.
We know by now that writing is revision. It is the art of coaxing a story into its true form, of “killing your darlings,” those sweet little lines dripping with so much symbolism and dramatic tension that you’re patting yourself on the back as you write them. So get rid of them. Instead, make the reader work for it.
Here is why revision matters:
Professionalism: All writers will tell you that they revise. A so-called finished piece with a bunch of errors won't seem professional to teachers, possible employers or literary agents. In fact, it indicates sloppy, careless work on behalf of the writer.
Clarity: Sentences and ideas will get shifted around during revision. After careful consideration, words will be changed to better reflect the tone or meaning. Perhaps a whole paragraph or chapter will get moved, and in the end, the piece’s message will be clearer.
The story: Sometimes we don’t know what the story is really about until after a second, third or sometimes even forth draft. Going back and rereading one’s work during the revision process results in the discovery and development of the story.
“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Truman Capote