The revision process: a small glimpse

Here’s a small glimpse into the revision process, as demonstrated by a specific problem in a story.

The original passage had a young schoolteacher looking at a bruise on a boy’s face and deciding to befriend him because she felt sorry for him.  Now I learn that most teachers are mandatory reporters… which would mess up the real story here, so I can’t have that. (Although writers should do research, it’s impossible to cover every angle.  I’ve never taught school, so I didn’t know this fact.  This is why I show my earlier drafts to readers, so they can help me catch things like this.)

Solution in this case is pretty easy: I need some other physical observation which will increase her sympathy toward the boy, yet not be anything she can help him with.

I consider sickness, and a “faraway daydreaming look” that she’d relate to, but neither is strong.  Finally I come up with poverty, which can be demonstrated with old, beat-up clothing.  Shoes are the obvious choice since I’ve already spent a lot of time detailing the way he’s kicking the dirt under the swings.  Plus, shoes definitely show a lot of wear and tear and are harder to replace at thrift stores and the like.  So now she sees the soles falling off the boy’s shoes and his toes stretching the end like they want to escape, and this sparks the reaction I want her to have.

This is what a small part of the revision process looks like: isolate a problem passage, identify how’s it failing, decide what the passage needs to accomplish, and fix it.

3 thoughts on “The revision process: a small glimpse

  1. Thanks for sharing your process. My son struggles a lot with writing, and I’ll tell him this example of identifying and solving a problem. It makes it emotionally easier to work on writing if you know that it doesn’t just automatically flow out of people. 🙂


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