Site contents copyright 2004-2007 Michelle Hakala except where otherwise noted.

NaNo 2006 Winner
Exercise #223

Exercise #223: Craft
Posted 8/3/07

I recommend you read today’s entire exercise before beginning to write.

Revision is something we’ve all had to deal with. How often have you asked yourself whether a piece is done? Even after I send one of my works to market, I’ll find something else I could have tweaked or a sentence I could have tightened.

Last weekend, Chas and I attended a writing retreat. During the course of two days, we wrote to ten different prompts using free writing for each of them. Those snippets of prose are raw and some of them won’t make much sense to someone who wasn’t there with us. But within each could be the nugget of a top-of-the-charts novel, or the sliver that builds an essay, or the whimsical first notes of a short story tune. Revision will find those gems.

For today’s exercise, prepare yourself to write, then set a timer* for ten minutes. Using this prompt:
The black cat disappeared around the corner.
free write* for those ten minutes. Done? Good.

Now revise your free write piece, cutting out what doesn’t fit and smoothing transitions. Don’t add anything major yet. (If you didn’t come out with anything worth revising, pick one sentence from it and start over, using your sentence as your new prompt.) Done? Good. Save this part as it is.

Copy your revised piece and revise it again. This time, add. Put in a plot. Give your character, if you have one, some life. Add conflict or resolution or both.

When you’re done, SUB both your revised free write and your revised-and-added free write in one email message. We want to see what the difference is and how revision can make a piece better.

Critiquers, note the improvement in the second piece and comment on why you think it’s better with the second revision.

If you prefer, you may write about an author hard at work revising a novel.

Word limit: 1500 total for both pieces combined
Please use the subject line
    SUB: Exercise #223/yourname

* Don’t have a timer handy? Try this site:

*Free write is when you just keep the pen (or keys) moving for a set amount of time. Don’t edit, don’t censor, just write and let the words come as they may. It can be hard to set your inner critic aside, but you might be surprised about what appears if you can do it!

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