Editing Advice from 10 Sucessful Authors


You know all too well that feeling that forms in your stomach when you look at the first draft of your manuscript. Your confidence that soared high when you finished the draft comes crashing down when you come back a few weeks later and discover a messy thing you called a novel.

But you're not alone.

Every writer has come face to face with that feeling at least once, and there are ways to get through it and edit your novel.

Here are ten pieces of editing advice from authors:

1. “No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published." — J. Russell Lynes

2. “Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.” — Kurt Vonnegut, How to Use the Power of the Printed Word

3. “The waste basket is a writer's best friend.” —Isaac Bashevis Singer

4. “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." — Arthur Plotnik

5. “There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.” — Elie Wiesel

6. “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

7. “There is but one art, to omit.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

8. “The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” — Neil Gaiman

9. “Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in the edit.” — Will Self

10. “When in doubt, delete it.” — Philip Cosby

Are there other editing (or writing) quotes that inspire you to keeping working even when you're discouraged? I love hearing new quotes, so share them with me in the comments below!

Meagan Nicole