Uncategorized writing

Moving Along with Revision

To get started with the revision process, we wrote a summary and looked at the whole piece. Next, Julia Green (whose revision workshop I’m basing these posts on) advises moving to the “line level,” where every line or sentence should be relevant to the summary, and noticing whether each bit of the text advances the story.

Line by Line

If something doesn’t contribute to the story, think about and look for instances where you’re bored or beginning to skim. If you’re bored, your readers will be, too. Mark that spot.

Are there places where things happen too fast—or too slow? Do you expect something to happen, but it doesn’t?

Do you wonder about something that’s missing and begin questioning the characters or text? Jot down those questions.

Does the piece need more background information or a more specific setting to ground the reader?

What about the dialogue and action? Would your character (a frustrated teen-aged girl, a compassionate dad, a mugger, a ______) really speak or behave this way?

Is the character’s motivation or desire clear?

Bird by Bird

This is a lot to look at and digest here. SO start with just one thing; don’t try to fix everything at once. Start with one area that feels accessible.

Do you need to go back and look at your character work-up to see his motivation, what he holds dear, his height and weight, or ways he would never behave?

Would your story benefit from you listening in on folks’ conversations or watching a movie or YouTube video of similar characters to catch their speech patterns and vocabulary?

Maybe beginning to write the answers to the questions that arose would be helpful as a starting point.

Once More

Try anything. Everything will reveal something about the piece and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Look for one more upcoming post on Revision. Bird. By. Bird.  ~ xoA

Stock photo. Photographer unknown.


Thumb’s Up for Revision

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Over the 18 years since my mother’s death, I wrote, revised, and excerpted her story several times. But when writer, teacher, and coach Julia Green asked us, attendees of her Revision Workshop, to bring a piece to practice on, I looked in my memoir files, and Mom’s story jumped up, raised its hand, and said, “me, me!”

Following Julia’s prompts and directions provided me the motivation to give this important-to-me story another go and it’s so much better. It might even be the final copy.

About revision

We use two different parts of our brain when we go from first draft to revision. In the first draft, we have an idea or a starting point, and we download as much as we can come up with onto the page, in any form that comes.

When we revise, the analytical part of our brain kicks in and goes to work. Our job is to elevate the piece, and Julia says, “Revision is any attempt to improve the writing.” That includes rewriting existing material, cutting, adding, reordering, reorganizing, and crafting images and language.

As writers we sometimes are stumped about where to begin and how. Julia encouraged us to try things because everything will reveal something about the piece and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Instead of judging, read with curiosity

Re-read and ask what the piece is about, whether you see a theme or patterns. This first step proved to be helpful for me. In writing a three-sentence summary and noticing a pattern that threw the story in a different direction, I became motivated to dive into revising this story again.

Other important aspects to observe are where emotional and/or physical reactions occur; what’s the conflict, problem, question, or mission of the piece; and what or who has changed by the end.

Get started

Print out a short piece or section, 3-5 pages you want to work on. Read it aloud, with curiosity. And mark it up. Make notes in the margins. Write a three-sentence summary of the piece. Does it match what you thought the piece was about when you wrote it? If you’re working on a longer piece with chapters or sections, it’s helpful to write a summary at each of those points.

I’ll be sharing more about revision in the next few blog posts. Meanwhile, keep writing. Remember, if you don’t have something written, you can’t revise. ~xoA


Outside the Box

Photo by Judy McDole

Today’s prompt called for something “outside the box.” Maybe thinking outside the box or breaking stereotypes. “…The boxes that hold us can be many things: work, gender, clothing, sexuality, family, religion, etc. Boxes can be so comfortable that coming out is terrifying and even painful sometimes. But the freedom is usually worth it.”

Outside the Box
I stand before my students, middle schoolers.
Standard English our currency, the norm
We follow the rules, no deviation
Serious about learning
Reaching their potential
Liberal with the look,
Encouragement, and love
They notice my bulletin board
The photos of me and my family
Me with my big red motorcycle
The Grand Tetons in the background
Ms. Cassells is that YOU?
YOU ride a motorcycle?
I’m thrust outside the teacher box
The last day of school I relent
Ride my candy apple red Goldwing
Angle into a parking space at the curb
Lower my kickstand, swagger in
That’s how you walk in motorcycle gear
Show off my bike to bug-eyed boys
Suddenly shy, to disbelieving girls
Who shake their heads
Is that our Ms. Cassells?