Tuesday, July 21, 2009

After the End Revisited

I am immersed in writing this month, though not the kind you're thinking of, I'm sure. I'm a facilitator for our local Writing Project's Summer Institute, affiliated with the National Writing Project. The Summer Institute is an intensive four-week graduate level course for teachers of all grade levels and subject areas; we explore the research as well as the nuts and bolts of literacy, all with the mindset of teachers teaching teachers.

I only tell you this to explain the educator angle I'm thinking from these days. And possibly to explain that my current preoccupation with Barry Lane comes from my daily dalliance in his book. I've used his ideas within my classes many times, but every time I re-read or review his chapters, I walk away with something new. I completely recommend After the End for any writer who revises, not just educators who teach the concept.

Four Revision Strategies from After the End:

1. Thoughtshot: looking at what a character is thinking and feeling; often draws frames around stories and essays; places events in a context and gives the reader and the writer a reason to be interested.

2. Snapshot: writing in sharp physical detail; details are boxes inside boxes. One idea unlocks several others, and so on.

3. Explode the Moment: finding the significant moment in the story, then taking a sentence or two and exploding it, scattering details all over the page.

4. Collapse a Century: think shrink; taking a large chunk of time and compressing it down
Revision Strategies: Just like JKB and so many have discussed, there are a myriad of ways to revise. How do you revise? How do you re-vision or re-see your work, especially after you've been immersed in it? Can you really take Lane's ideas and apply them to your work? Or are they just a "teacher trick"? Are these strategies that even skilled and experienced writers can apply?


  1. Since I'm revising, I'll put those notes in front of me and see where they take me. Thanks for the tips.

  2. What a great post, and I love the little matching pics.

    Revising for me takes time. I have to distance myself from the novel, think about it, muse on it, read lots of good stuff and ask myself, "What makes this better than my work? What can I add/change/delete?" And then - piece by piece - rework it.

  3. @Tricia: yeppers! They seem a little childlike, but honestly it helps to have a common language, espcially when speaking about revision w/ someone.

    @Tess: thanks :) for me too, it takes a lot of time. things percolate and bubble and simmer -- sometimes for months or years. but i keep writing in the meantime!


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