Revising after publication?

May 18, 2019

Henry James rewrote simple, understandable stuff so it was obscure and difficult. Actually, I’ve done it recently. The story “Carried Away” was included in Best American Short Stories 1991. I read it again in the anthology, because I wanted to see what it was like and I found a paragraph that I thought was really soggy. It was a very important little paragraph, maybe two sentences. I just took a pen and rewrote it up in the margin of the anthology so that I’d have it there to refer to when I published the story in book form. I’ve often made revisions at that stage that turned out to be mistakes because I wasn’t really in the rhythm of the story anymore. I see a little bit of writing that doesn’t seem to be doing as much work as it should be doing, and right at the end I will sort of rev it up. But when I finally read the story again it seems a bit obtrusive. So, I’m not too sure about this sort of thing. The answer may be that one should stop this behaviour. There should be a point where you say, the way you would with a child, this isn’t mine anymore.

Alice Munro
Interview with Jeanne McCulloch and Mona Simpson
Paris Review Summer 1994

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