A Brief Handbook of Revision for Writers

Progressive stages of revision eliminate incidence in favor of essence.

A Center

If others call you a maniac or a fool, just let them wag their tongues.

A Final Conversation

I used bravado to protect myself when we lived in poverty.

A Master at Work

Man is always beginning everything anew, even in his own life.

A Real Writer

Advance planning was never Hank’s strong suit, he had to leave her.

A Short Short Theory

Fiction, no matter how short or long, is the art form of human yearning.

A Writer’s Beginnings

I was writing copy for cheapo furniture for a crummy ad agency.

Advice for a Young Painter

Identify where you came from, where you are, and where you wish to go.

Agents: The Business of Writing

Art touches the soul and moves life in ways that commerce cannot. E. L. Doctorow noted that writers seem to get business ideas almost right.

Algonquin’s Legendary Editor

The excuse, of course, was that men had to support families.

An Ideal Author

I should never have the notebook and the pencil in the right pockets.

Ann Beattie


In other words, beachfronts like Bolaño’s and mine are Nowhere.

Best Advice

It holds a place in my heart: Never forget the suspenders.

Best Advice

To see—and to see properly—is the writer’s central responsibility.

Best Advice

My advice can be succinctly expressed in three words: Persist, persist, persist!

Best Advice

Truths don’t eclipse each other—they only complicate each other.

Best Advice

Follow your dog, and you might just live to write for another day.

Best Advice

My advice is to take advice with a grain of salt.

Best Advice

Abandon the idea that arts and sciences are mutually exclusive.

Best Advice

I worry that I will be kidnapped by my cab driver and driven to an ATM.

Best Advice

Reviewers are curs and their opinions are not to be taken seriously.

Best Advice

You can get anyone to sleep with you—if you want it bad enough.

Best Advice

It is only the failures of love that I regret, those times when I did not give myself so generously.

Best Advice

“Ten lo,” she says when you’ve finished. Have it.

Best Advice

Writing is a subversive activity that exempts you from the rules.

Best Advice

“Watch your purse, dear,” Aunt Florie whispers.

Best Advice

It was the sixties, and I was in
college and incredibly restless.

Best Advice

Our lives are often shaped by small, seemingly trivial choices.

Best Advice

Getting answers is easy. The difficult thing is knowing the right questions.