The Merciless Writer: Benjamin Percy on Revision

Image from Esquire

If you haven’t been following Benjamin Percy’s articles in Poets & Writer’s, you’ve really been missing out. First he rallied the writing spirit in his call-to-arms “Go The Distance: What Rocky Taught Me About Submission” in the column “The Practical Writer” November/December 2009. In the May/June 2010 P&W issue, he knocks us out with another cold truth about the process of writing in “Home Improvement: Revision as Renovation.” Here’s a feel for some of his deftly thrown punches:

I’m no stranger to starting over. I wrote three failed novels before selling The Wilding…So much of revision, I’ve discovered is about coming to terms with that word: gone. Letting things go.

..the professional writer mercilessly lops off limbs, rips out innards like party streamers, drains gallons of blood, and then calls down the lightning to bring the body back to life…

I have thrown away thousands of pages [which means you need to write everyday to produce those thousands upon thousands of pages]…

One time [in grad school] a professor handed me back a manuscript with every single page slashed through with an enormous black X. There were no comments except a single word scrawled over the title: Don’t.

Percy’s the only writer you won’t mind sparring with on the mat because even though he’ll trip you up, you’ll be stronger and wiser for it.

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