Check out this video made by a school after one of my interactive presentations about revision. After creating a rough draft, I asked students to revise for word choice, dialogue, details, plot, character development, setting, etc. The improvisation was so funny and full of great examples of living writing.
Read Jessica Goldstein’s engaging interview with Judith Viorst in the Sept 1 issue of The Washington Post. Here are my favorite excerpts:
“‘I am obnoxiously disciplined,’ said Viorst… Viorst gives herself quotas. She polishes the pages. She tells the children whose classrooms she visits that ‘I’m not a writer. I’m a rewriter. I go over and over and over. A million times.'”
“Writing, she said, hasn’t gotten easier with time, and one of the biggest misconceptions about children’s books is that they take little effort or brainpower to produce. … ‘I don’t count on inspiration,’ she said. ‘Inspiration follows pushing yourself, pushing yourself, pushing yourself.’
Got a letter yesterday from a boy in a residential juvenile detention facility, another word for jail. He wrote to say how much he enjoyed Invisible Lines, a book that deals with some of the tough issues that I’m sure this boy has had to face. The most touching part of the letter for me was his revelation of his favorite scene: the scene in the book where the science teacher takes the kids outside and has them get down on the grass and pretend to be mycelial threads in an ecosystem. This is my favorite scene in the book, too! It’s a scene that initially frustrated me because it was flat on the page in my early drafts. So in the revision process I actually went outside and stretched out on the grass and pretended that I was my main character. When I did this, I had some emotional revelations that gave me what I needed to really and truly see the scene through my character’s eyes.
Wrote a new song. Loved it. Well, most of it. I was having a little trouble with the bridge, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere. So, I played the song for my music partner Bill Williams, expecting him to suggest a little touch that would do the trick for the trouble spot. He floored me by saying that when he looked at my lyrics, he was hearing a completely different rhythm and tempo overall. I so wanted him to be wrong. “But I love this rhythm and tempo…” I kept thinking.
If I have learned one thing about writing it is this: Beware when you are saying to yourself, “But I love this…” Last night, I forced myself to try Bill’s suggested rhythm and tempo and the song came to life. As I was singing, new lyrics came to me for that troubled old bridge over which I had labored. I can’t even remember now what I loved so much about the old song.
When I do workshops on revision, I often share an example from a draft and a revision to illustrate how I work. At the request of teachers, I have created pdf pages that you can download and print (or project onto your classroom screen) to share with students.