Do Re-readers Tend to Be Revisers?

So today on twitter, agent Holly Root proposed a theory:  Editors tend to have been re-readers as kids; agents were rarely re-readers. (via Molly O'Neill)

I don't know about agents and editors, but that made me wonder how re-reading and re-writing are related for writers.  I proposed my own hypothesis:  Writers who like revising were re-readers as kids. Writers who like first drafts, not so much.

People on twitter started weighing in, some who fit this pattern, and some who didn't.  Which made me curious enough to put up a little unscientific poll. 

What are your rereading and revising preferences?  (Email subscribers and people reading in feed readers will need to click through to the web page to take the poll.)

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  1. Hmmm, I'm a re-reader. But I'm not sure it's true that I either hate or enjoy revising. I don't like doing it, but I love how much better the story is when I really get going on the revisions.

  2. I re-read so much as a kid that it annoys me in retrospect. I wish I could have branched out more. Read more.

    I would much rather edit a scene than write it from fresh, so I certainly fit your hypothesis.

  3. I'm a writer and editor. I enjoy revising my own work, and helping others develop theirs.

    I don't tend to re-read--too much waiting in my to-read stack--but I do have a few favorites I go back to from time to time.

  4. I only re-read the classics I didn't appreciate the first time around.

  5. I was an obsessive re-reader as a kid, although I tended to just skip back through to my favorite parts and reread those. Still do that now.

  6. I recently posted something about re-reading on my FB page. I really enjoy re-reading books, although for different reasons at different stages in my life. In my teenage years I tended to re-read whatever most caught my imagination. As an adult I’ve found my selections tend to match my mood. If I need a distraction I go back to lighter, easy readers. If I need a laugh out comes Catch-22 or equivalent. Without intentionally doing so, I’ve ended up with a book for every mood!

    As a writer I very much enjoy the revising process. I find the more time I spend with my characters the richer the experience overall. For me, much of the revising, editing and polishing process is about time and perspective. You wouldn’t prepare all the ingredients for lasagna, put it in the oven then take it out after five minutes expecting it to taste good.

    So for me at least, your hypothesis rings true.

  7. Other than the children's books I've been reading to my son these past few months, I only recall re-reading one book in my life, and that was The Princess Bride. (Note: I'm also not counting Calvin & Hobbes or Far Side collections.) Yet, I prefer the revision process to writing the initial draft. I guess I just find it easier to edit than to come up with the words in the first place.

    Still, I wouldn't be surprised if your hypothesis holds and I happen to be an outlier. I've always prided myself on being a little different (although the "little" part is debatable).

  8. I reread books often: partly because I read too fast the first (and second and third) time and miss bits, and partly because I enjoy more than just finding out what happens.

    I sometimes enjoy revising, but the parts of revising that I enjoy are solving problems and coming up with nice language -- which I enjoy at least as much when writing first drafts.

  9. Very interesting results in this casual poll. Now my question is, how many of the people who voted in the poll are agents, editors, writers, or readers, or a combination of such?

  10. I've never been much of a re-reader. There are, of course, a few exceptions. I will re-read books that I loved and haven't read for decades, but only for the purpose of studying the writing to hone my craft.

    I neither love nor hate revising my own work. I simply consider it part of the process.

    When I'm doing content and copy editing for others, I DO enjoy the work because it is usually my first exposure to the story. In those cases, it's almost a guilty pleasure because I'm not only ALLOWED to write in the book; I'm actually EXPECTED to do so. And in bold colors, if I see fit. (I was raised to consider defacing a book by writing in it a heinous crime.)

    I am not a literary agent (and not a re-reader).
    I am a freelance editor, writer and an avid reader (and while I'm neutral on revising my own work, I enjoy the heck out of editing and rewriting the work of others).

  11. I reread and I love to revise and tweak. However, I have NEVER been a rip-out-a-first-draft person. Even in high school and college, I would just write a paper the first time.

    But for important stuff, and longer works like my novel, etc., even AFTER the too-conscious first draft, I revise and revise and revise...

    And I automatically see editing and revision needs in EVERYTHING I read...

  12. What an interesting poll, Livia! I re-read constantly as a kid (don't have enough time now) and I obsess over revising. It's difficult, but I think it's much better to wrestle with something that's already on the page than face a blank page any day.

  13. So thus far the results look interesting, though I'm not quite sure what to make of them. If my hypothesis were true, then most responses would have fallen into liking both, or disliking both. Instead, we have a lot of people saying they like both, and very few saying they dislike both. This makes me wonder if the way the survey was written is biasing people. If I were to do the survey again in a more controlled manner, I'd randomize the answer order. I'd also rephrase "dislike revising" to "prefers first drafts" or something, cuz I don't think people like to say they "dislike" something. Of course, if I were really doing this as an experiment, I also woudln't share my hypothesis right before the post. Still, interesting to see the results though.