I have a confession: I love to cut. Almost nothing pleases me more than to read through a manuscript and find a sentence, a paragraph, a page – entire chapters – that can be placed under the guillotine and dispatched into history once and for all. My general rule of thumb? If I can’t cut at least a quarter of my first draft then I’m not doing my job.
Fortunately, the majority of early drafts contain more fat than Iowa-raised bacon. Let’s talk about Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style cuts – you know, hacking off large sections of your manuscript to make it better. How do you know where to begin?
Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons by Sneed B. Collard and Vicki Spandel
Have you ever watched a film that you enjoyed, but afterward had trouble describing— or, worse yet, never thought about again? Unfortunately, many Hollywood movies fall into this category.
They seem well-constructed and crackle with gee-whiz action, yet leave the audience empty and disappointed. Most often, the problem boils down to one issue: there’s no person or thing in the movie that we actually care about. Instead of being character driven, these movies are plot-driven. They are defined by events instead of characters that we actually identify with.
Remember the scene in the movie Alien where the baby alien bursts out of the crew member’s chest cavity? The same horror we felt watching that monster erupt onto the screen is what many students experience when facing revision. Really, who can blame them? They just finished sweating over a writing assignment—and that was hard enough. Now you want them to go back and revisit that very same piece? Have you lost your mind?
“I like it the way it is.” As a writing teacher, I groan inside when I hear my students say this. It’s the verbal equivalent of that giant, capitalized declaration etched into many of my students’ writing pieces: THE END. Whether uttered or written, whether delivered with a scowl and arms crossed or offered hesitantly, the message is the same: This piece is not changing. This work site is closed, and no renovations will be made. No “revision”—no “reseeing” of this writing—is happening, period.
Barry Lane's best-selling After THE END helped teachers see revision in a whole new light and inspired a generation of students to not only embrace revision but to realize that writing is revision. Now, the long-awaited second edition keeps Barry's humorous and endearing tone while updating his ideas and lessons for teaching writing with heart.
Barry sees a lot of reluctance and disinterest in revision. "It's done," students say. "Why revise it?" The trick, Barry says, is to teach students to love what revision really is. Watch the video below for more.