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June 17, 2007

Writing a Revision in Ten Steps

I started earlier this month by writing about a couple of early possible steps to revision—gathering a clean copy of your work----and figuring out what you really want to write. I thought it might be helpful now to offer an overview—a kind of template for revision. This template could work, I suppose, for revising any piece of written work, but I’m thinking of it here, and in particular, for some pages you may have done in the context of writing and healing.

You may want to try the steps in the order in which I’ve outlined them. You may want to do a step a day—or a step a week. You may also want to rearrange the steps a bit, revise them. Of course, feel free.

So, A Template for Revision----Ten Steps:
1. Create a clean copy of your work. Put it away. And wait. At least a week.

2. Read something you love.

3. Figure out what you long to write.

4. Gather supplies for revision: the clean, printed copy of your work; a pencil; a few pens in different colors; a pad of paper.

5. Go for a walk. Become, if possible, a stranger in the streets.

6. Become a stranger to your own pages. In order to do this, schedule for yourself at least thirty minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time. Sixty minutes would be even better. Begin to read your pages as if you are a stranger to them—preferably a kind stranger. And, this first time through, read the pages straight through without making any marks. Read for the big picture—the forest rather than the trees. Or, to use a slightly different metaphor, think of this stage like doing landscape design before you begin to fuss with any individual plant. Try, if possible, to resist the urge to edit. If you do find a need to make notes or marks of any sort, make them on a separate sheet of paper.

7. Read for words that resonate. This second time reading through your pages, begin to make boxes around words and lines that resonate with you now for some reason. Use different colors if you like. Draw boxes around words and lines that surprise you—or that hit the right note—or that seem to you now to be of some importance.

8. Write a response to your pages. Take out a clean sheet of paper and write in response to what you’ve just read, responding in particular to those words that are now inside the boxes. Write as if you are that kind stranger--or perhaps a kind teacher.

Dear ---------, I have just finished reading the pages you gave me, and I find that I am moved (—puzzled—delighted—) by several parts of this . . . . There is one line in particular, out of all of them, that strikes me now . . . . And too, one of the things I began to notice as I read was a certain pattern in what you’re doing. It’s as if . . .

9. Decide on a form that feels right for expressing some or much of what you’ve written. You may find it helpful at this point to go back and look again at step 3: What is it that you long to write? And what might be a good form for doing so? A poem? A short story? A journal? A letter? An essay? A dialogue? A fairy tale? A list? A written collage?

10. Write something new that emerges out of the pages that you’ve written.