It wasn’t until I figured out how to revise that I got my first writing contract. The revision process is an exciting experience – it’s where I see what’s possible, what might be. I typically spend four to five years (from the very beginning to the very end) writing a novel and MOST of that time is spent on revision. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed some revision strategies that have helped bring me back from the abyss—multiple times. Thank goodness! So last year when Kate Messner reached out to middle grade authors – asking for help with her revision book for kids – I jumped at the chance to talk about this. Published by Stenhouse Publishers, Real Revision, Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers, is a wonderful look at revision. She has geared it toward teachers working with kids. But I think it’s a worthwhile book on revision for any writer, both published and unpublished.
Kate separates the book into chapters, including ones on detail, cutting, research, making characters more “real;” she relies on her own writing experience as well as those of the 40 authors who contributed to the book. I found myself saying, “oh, good idea,” when I read about an exercise Kate does in her classroom (requiring students to write a second opening paragraph for their essays).
I also really liked the “Try it” pages. Kate has taken revision suggestions from various authors, then made up an exercise page directed at kids. For example, Linda Urban has a great step-by-step process for peer editing. Jeannine Atkins offers a “Try it” page where students can work on improving language.
Again, these suggestions are geared toward teachers and students but I couldn’t help but think how even the most “advanced” author could benefit from these exercises.
At the spring NE-SCBWI conference I led a workshop on revision (I’ll be repeating this at the Encore 2011 in October). One of the main points in my talk was that writers must develop their own internal editor and come up with their own revision “rules” or guidelines. But how does a young writer do this?
By learning what other writers do!
Kate Messner has just made that search a whole lot easier. Check it out!