The art is in knowing what to remove

Michelangelo, when asked how he managed to create such a lifelike sculpture of David out of a block of marble, replied “I just removed everything that was not David.”

Chaim Potok, who wrote novels such as The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev, said something much the same: “I think the hardest part of writing is revising. And by that I mean the following: a novelist has to create the piece of marble and then chip away to find the figure in it.”

2 thoughts on “The art is in knowing what to remove

  1. Ernest Hemingway once commented that a good writer is willing to kill his “little darlings”, referring to the words in his manuscript, of course. In my limited experience, I find the first editing pass to be exhilarating as I scythe through all the rubbish that is easily identified and dispatched. More difficult is the third or fourth or fifth editing pass. Yes, and sometimes a dozen. What is really heart-rending is when I must choose to delete an entire chapter because it just doesn’t move the plot forward. I recently cut nearly five thousand words from my latest piece because of its irrelevance, but I really enjoyed writing that piece. All is not lost, though, for the practice is worthwhile. And I might just be able to use that piece (or parts of it) in another book!

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