Revision is More Than “Just Editing.”

March 18, 2019 § 4 Comments

2019-02-19_1214By Katey Schultz

One of the most challenging hurdles I’ve faced as a writing teacher is persuading a writer that learning how to work with their imagination is a necessary skill if they want to become their own best editors. What I’m talking about is the difference between the writer who wants to live forever in that hum-buzz-state of generating new work, versus the writer who has matured to realize that generation is only one small part of the process. Slowing down enough to “search for the sentence that says the thing you had no idea you could say, hidden inside the sentence you’re making,” as Verlyn Klinkenborg says, is where I personally have the most fun, but it’s an invisible process. How do you teach something you can’t see? How do you articulate a decision you may not even realize you made?

One approach I’ve had some success with is teaching a superstructure for flash fiction and flash nonfiction that I call the present moment ~ flashback ~ present moment structure (how’s that for imaginative?). Working as Writer-in-Residence for Fishtrap in the Oregon public schools, teaching adults at Interlochen Center for the Arts, and MFA candidates in several low-res programs, all have resonated with this approach and a fair number have also been able to “turn a corner” in their own work as writers, finally embracing that revision isn’t just “editing” and it most certainly isn’t boring, either. No, revision is re-visioning, and if we listen to what the structural components of our drafts are telling us, we can revise more confidently as we take our stories where they most need to go.

Here’s a link to a brief video that’s part of an ongoing series of flash craft lessons headlining my blog right now. Learn about the present moment ~ flashback ~ present moment superstructure and how each component builds toward what Stuart Dybek aptly calls the moment when a character’s “yearning shines forth.”

Katey Schultz is the author of Flashes of War (stories) and the forthcoming novel, Still Come Home, both published by Loyola University Maryland. Ten years ago, she founded Maximum Impact, which provides transformative online curricula for writers, helping them articulate their best work through mentorship and high-touch online classes. Learn more at or follow @kateyschultz

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