Oh, The Joys and Hardships of Revision!

As every serious writer knows, a good book has to be assiduously and meticulously revised to reach a satisfactory (if not “perfect”) state before publication.  After the initial flush of inspiration, one must go back over the text word by word, line by line, to make sure the writer has effectively said what he or she meant to say.

This process can be by turns fun and infuriating and laborious. But it simply cannot be skipped or the resultant manuscript is doomed to be malformed dreck.  You can bet on it.

I thought the writers here would appreciate some vivid examples of just how hard our very best authors worked the revision thing. It’s gratifying to know we are not alone, but in excellent company!

proustProust’s maniacal revisions of Remembrance of Things Past

jane austenSome of Jane Austen’s own edits of Persuasion

great expectations msCharles Dickens’ revisions of first paragraph of Great Expectations

So take heart, writers, nobody ever said writing great prose was easy or dropped like ripe apples fully formed and polished from the pen or keyboard. Hang in there and re-work it until it sings!

For an affordable professional humdinger edit, something I’ve been doing for over 25 years, contact me through Margaret Langstaff Editorial.

Posted in fiction, Literature, novel, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

This Emily Dickinson poem is for our friends in the Northeast tonight– we hope they are warm!


It sifts from leaden sieves —

It powders all the Wood.

It fills with Alabaster Wool

The Wrinkles of the Road —

It makes an Even Face

Of Mountain, and of Plain —

Unbroken Forehead from the East

Unto the East again —

It reaches to the Fence —

It wraps it Rail by Rail

Till it is lost in Fleeces —

It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack — and Stem —

A Summer’s empty Room —

Acres of Joints where Harvests were,

Recordless, but for them —

It ruffles Wrists of Posts

As Ankles of a Queen —

Then stills its Artisans — like Ghosts —

Denying they have been —

c. 1862 #311


[all poems of Dickinson that I post here are from Thomas Johnson’s monumental THE COMPLETE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON, 1952, Little, Brown, which restored her original (be it unusual) spelling, capitalization and punctuation]

NOTE: WordPress makes it almost impossible to replicate stanza breaks in poetry. This poem was written in quatrains ( four line stanzas) but I can’t get WP to allow me to represent it correctly.

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This year’s National Poetry Month poster

National Poetry Month (is this an organization, an alliance or what?)  in this great land of ours is April and “it” has just released its annual poster which is rather cute.

national poetry month poster

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Free Books! Not Many, But Good Ones

[Also posted as separate page on the blog]

Review Copies

Each month I’ve informally off the record given away review copies of my books, usually three to five a month, to my followers with the understanding these eager readers will post an honest and, more or less (haha), intelligent review on Amazon and Goodreads of the book after finishing it . I’ve decided to formalize this a bit, because it’s easy for me to lose track of who’s reading what and where to look for new reviews. My nascent sense of fairness is at work here too.  Everyone who’s interested ought to have a fair chance, right?
Take a look at the “Books and Publications” page on my blog, and if something strikes your fancy and you would like a gratis copy, leave me a comment at the bottom of the page. (Mention the title!) and that will put you in line for the next first of the month “book drop,” on a first come first served basis. The rules and regs of this largess may change slightly from time to time, but will remain basically the same.  I’ve got a great legion of avid readers following the blog and appreciate your company and conversations immensely. I hope you like the idea and take advantage of it. I love to hear from my readers.
BTW these will be e-books formatted for Kindle. Shipping costs for paperbacks make giving them away prohibitive. Also look for a new Garnet Sullivan Live from Florida mystery in coming months.  It’s tentatively titled FROND MEMORIES and features (egad!) SHARKS, both human and marine. So simple as that, want a free review copy, add your name and the title below. And happy reading!
PS–most of the books have received raves, so they are a fair bet at no cost to you.
PPS-If you’d rather send me a private email about reserving review copies, shoot it off to:  margaret@margaretlangstaffeditorial.com
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The Rigours of Publishing

I don’t know where this came from and I’d like to credit the source but can’t. Found it on Amazon.UK and had to pass it along.  The Big Ouch all writers go through countless times.  Get used to it. One has to or perish. Just keep on truckin.

will you publish my ss

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Harsh Truths About Writing from Some Writing Legends

Writers, if you are struggling, you are not alone. It’s the typical state of mind for a serious writer! I stumbled on this and thought it worth sharing here. No endorsements intended or implied. Just food for thought and a few reasons to smile.

From Thought Catalog

1. The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway

2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy

3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker

4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux

5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee

6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London

7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham

9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright

12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser

13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut

14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway

15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway

16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk

17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain

18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman

19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury

21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

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Apply for English Department Scholarships! (deadline February 15th, 2015)

Originally posted on The Underground:

The English department invites applications for two scholarships available to English majors: the Ellin M. Kelly, Ph. D. Endowed British Literature Award ($1200) and the Honors English scholarship ($2300). Each scholarship has different requirements.

See below for details on each scholarship and go here for application and details!

To be eligible for either of these scholarships, students must:

  • be declared English majors at sophomore level or higher.
  • have completed at least two quarters at DePaul.
  • have completed at least three English courses with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in those courses.
  • plan to register in at least two courses in Spring 2015.

Ellin M. Kelly, Ph. D. Endowed British Literature Award, $1200

The Kelly Endowed British Literature Award recognizes the academic achievement of students who have demonstrated their dedication to the study of British literature. Preference will be given to candidates with a strong interest in Medieval Literature and/or…

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