At the Pen Festival 2010

At the Pen Festival 2010
© PEN American Center/Susan Horgan. All rights reserved. Please contact media@pen.org for usage and rights.

September 30, 2010

How Many Drafts Does It Take Before the Book Is Done?

Q: Preston, you are known for revising a lot. How do you know when you have revised enough?

A: After I revise many times, my mind begins to worry about typos and other errors I may have missed. So I revise some more.

After I revise many more times, my mind says this is great, this is publishable, excellent! But then after a few days I get anxious about how reviewers like the NY Times or Publishers Weekly or even Black Voices and the Feminist Review will feel about the book. I worry that they may not like it because they think that I am saying something or implying something that I am not. So I revise some more.

After I revise many more times, I read the manuscript and my mind says, the book is saying what it has to say. The book is saying what it needs to say. The book is saying what you want it to say, Preston. You've done it, kiddo!

At this point, I cease to be concerned about reviewers because I am no longer concerned about getting a bad review.

This is not to say that I want a bad review, but that a bad review does not matter because the book has been polished to the point where it is taking a stand. Its message is clear--if you dislike it, you are disliking it because you dislike the message not because I have written it so poorly that you miss the message or that you cannot understand the message. I do not write to be loved, necessarily. I write to be understood.


Good Question

Preston

1 comment:

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