Wednesday, April 3, 2019


When I visit schools, I teach kids about the writing process. I explain that it takes me months to write a first draft for a novel, but then the work is just beginning.

I ask students how they feel when they turn in an essay or story only to have their teacher mark it all up with red pen. Inevitably, the kids groan. They know what I’m talking about. Revision is hard work.

I’ve written sixteen novels over the past twelve years. Each first draft took four to twelve months to complete, and I rewrote (not just edited) each book an average of nine times. Some more than that. And those revisions can take years. For example, I just completed the ninth revision of a novel I first wrote seven years ago.

I teach college composition, and I require my students to turn in three drafts of each essay. They hate it! But each draft improves upon the one before it. A question I often hear in both my school visits with kids and from my college students is, “When am I done writing?”

My answer is: “When it’s published by Random House and sitting on a shelf at Barnes & Noble.”
In other words, until a book or essay is actually bound and printed, there is always room for improvement.

If you’ve submitted a novel to agents or publishers and haven’t gotten a contract yet, your book needs more work.

If you’ve self-published, but the book isn’t selling well or is getting negative reviews, your book needs more work.

If you’ve only written two or three drafts, your book needs more work.

Have you hired a professional editor? No? Your book needs more work.

Keep going. Your story deserves to be the best it can be.

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