cover image The Art of Revision: The Last Word

The Art of Revision: The Last Word

Peter Ho Davies. Graywolf, $14 trade paper (172p) ISBN 978-1-64445-039-0

Novelist Davies (A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself) draws on his experience teaching at the University of Michigan’s writing program in this terrific guide to revising fiction. “Perhaps our ultimate resistance to revision, to doneness is that it prefigures death—the final draft, the last word,” Davies writes. He rejects Thomas Wolfe’s categorization of writers as either “putter-inners” or “taker-outers” and posits that revision is the process of finding out what one really means to do with a story and involves both cutting out “darlings” (or the “scaffolding... that can be taken down after the story is built”) and by adding when more is needed. Along the way, Davies surveys the methods writers have used for revision, including those of Frank O’Connor and Isaac Babel, and the relationship between Raymond Carver and editor Gordon Lish—in each case, he shows why revisions were made and how they changed a story. Davies also devotes a chapter on knowing when one is done with a story—a moment, he says, “when you understand why you told your story in the first place, what your intent actually was.” Full of spirit and sound advice, this survey will be a boon to writers. (Nov.)