Tag Archives: Revision

[marginalia] A Book, In Numbers : : Amy P. Knight

Lost, Almost is a book about people who see the world through their work in science and math. In that spirit, here is a look at the process of writing, publishing, and marketing the book, in numbers.

10: years ago I wrote the beginning of what would become Lost, Almost.

6: different houses I lived in while writing it.

2: number of graduate degrees earned during the process.

17: rejections for my favorite chapter as a stand-alone short story.

0: number of eventual acceptances for that same story. Continue reading

41 Revision Prompts From Pleiades

The good folks over at Pleiades have forty-one fantastic revision prompts to kick-start your fall writing. We’re listing a few of our favorites below. Check out the entire list over at their website.


Make a list of all the decisions your protagonist makes, every single one. Now change the order of the decisions your protagonist makes so that they follow a causal change. Rearrange your story to reflect this new list of decisions. Cut at least one decision and, if this applies, the corresponding scene. Now restructure the story again. Many stories are not ultimately in complete chronological order. The *plot* should still be the same causal chain, but the story might utilize flashbacks, memories, flash forwards, imagined scenes, etc.


Identify the “symbolic action” in each scene–what does the protagonist do that represents her/his change from where/who s/he was at the beginning of the scene (even if this change is slight), and which changes the situation (even if this change is slight). Add symbolic action where you are missing it. Try to get the most significant symbolic action for your protagonist close to the end of the scene.


Write past your ending. Write one or two or more scenes after the end of your story. Even if these scenes don’t make it into the final version, they will help inform the final version. What happens after the end of your story? And don’t stop there: now write about what the consequences are of what happens after the end of your story.


Restructure your story so that it starts at the most recent event and moves backward in time. Think about the causation here. Also think about the character’s possible paths and how those paths narrow by the choices they make.

Summer School with Catie Malooly: The Beauty and Horror of Nonfiction

The first in an ongoing series by undergraduate students in Intro to Creative Nonfiction at the University of Iowa who reflect on writing and revising. We begin with Ms. Catie Malooly who addresses procrastination, workshop, and the beauty and horror of creative nonfiction.

I procrastinate. Hard.

I wish I didn’t, but I do, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I tell myself I write better under pressure, that those rigid deadlines are what I need to really crank out my best work. Continue reading

Precision: David Foster Wallace at work

Came upon this document over on Ron Silliman’s blog which shows the changes between the transcription of David Foster Wallace reading “A fragment of a longer thing” (Dec. 2000) and The New Yorker’s publication of that story as “Backbone” (Feb. 28, 2011).

It’s fascinating and exciting to see Wallace’s editorial mind at work here. The writing is so much cleaner and more efficient in the New Yorker version. The story was really made by the revision, all my favorite moments (“The boy had turned seven.”) and elements (the detailed medical descriptions of the boy’s movements) edited in and all the redundant wording edited out. “Precision” is the word that comes to mind when I look at this. I have been geeking out over this and plan to continue the geek out for a while. Pure brain candy. What do you think?

Grant Hill’s draft and final version of NYT OpEd

Grant Hill wrote a New York Times OpEd response to Jalen Rose’s comments in the ESPN Documentary “The Fab Five.” He wrote his column, then, of course, he had to edit it, rewrite it. The editors at the Times tinkered with it. This is a fascinating discussion for NBA fans and also regular people.

Here is Grant Hill’s New York Times Piece.
Here is Grant Hill’s early draft.

There were space constraints, he says, but why remove this part instead of that part?