Tag Archives: Revising

Week Four: Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s week four of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group and words are happening!


Image via Giphy

Here are our week four goals.

Week Four Goals:


I’ve changed course of little bit. Inspired by Laura’s post last week, I started reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. I have owned book for decades, and I even took it to Aruba last December / January to read, but I still haven’t read it. So that has become a priority for this week.


Week Four goal: Finish course revisions. Period.


This week will be devoted to gathering research and roughing out an outline of ye olde group project for Library Research Methods and Assessment. If time permits, I’ll continue to find and read sources for my Law Librarianship annotated bibliography project.


I didn’t hit my week three progress, so my week four will be doing double-duty. I’m still looking for a good “home” for a short essay I wrote, and I need to start a new short story. I didn’t get the windmill blog post written, so that’s my job for this week as well.


Last week: Actually wrote about two pages!
Next week: Shooting for five more!


This week was not productive. I made a few notes on the scenes I had planned and started the outline, but got distracted by work stuff. Towards the end of the week, it hit me that I had too many unfinished short stories floating around, so I decided to reconsider my overall goals and hold off on the new book for a few weeks.

Week Four: Complete a final round of revisions on a short story I’d workshopped over the winter and try to submit it to an Open Fiction contest that has a deadline this Friday…


I outlined some topics to write about for my book, and even started writing one of them. The idea I was thinking about for last week was to self-publish through a blog or something, and I think I’m going to try it. Lately, I’ve been trying to adopt a “done is better than perfect” mentality, which is hard because it’s the opposite of my gut instinct. Anyway, my new end-of-summer goal is to start publishing on a blog, and next week’s goal will be to figure out how to do it. (You know how I feel about blogs, Rachel! [I love them. I love blogs.])


The last week’s goal was 7,000 words. I wrote 1,995 — I was out of town for three days.

This week’s goal, as usual, is 7,000 words, but I have four days of home renovation, so I doubt if I’ll make it. (Robert, you’re always ahead of the game, so do your renovations!)


Coming soon…


I spent hours on this one sonnet, trying to capture an idea about courage. It seems so small, considering the time and effort and countless revisions. Anyway, that was my week three goal, to hammer and polish it to what seemed the right luster.

Week four goals are about re-entering a fiction work (a quasi-children’s fantasy) and finding that elusive momentum…


And thank you, Ted, for the perfect segue! This week I wanted to talk about momentum, specifically, keeping it. We’re in week four of our eight week session, and this might be the time you’re losing a bit of steam. You’ve made progress for almost a month, either by producing words and pages, ideas and outlines, or by letting your project consume many of your waking thoughts. And that’s exhausting.

Roo Sleeping

Roo is exhausted just listening to me type about it!

But even if you’re tired, you need to keep the momentum. And if you don’t think you have anything more to say right now about your project/s, then you can keep the momentum by revising.

Janet Burroway, author of an excellent book on writing that I use in my creative writing classes (and she’s appeared on the blog before), has five helpful questions to ask about your work as you’re revising:

Is the language fresh? Have you avoided clichés, familiar descriptions, and any unnecessarily abstract language?

Is it clear? Have you answered the journalist’s Ws: who, what, when, where, and why? Will the reader understand when scenes change, when time has passed, and when new characters are introduced?

Is it too long? Cut. Cut everything you don’t need. Cut adjectives. Cut words that aren’t moving things forward. Each word matters, so if you find one that doesn’t, get rid of it. (If I were revising this section, I’d delete everything except the first word: cut.)

Where is it underdeveloped? See below for an exercise to help you with this one.

Does it end? The ending does not need to be happy, nor easy, but it needs to happen. Your protagonist should change in some way, even if it’s small. She should accept something about herself; she should see the reality in which she exists; she should decide to act; or she should decide to not act. If none of this has happened, your story hasn’t ended. (Burroway 205 – 206)

Five easy questions to ask during any step in your writing process! The fourth question, about development, can be explored further with a writing exercise Burroway includes:

Burroway Try This 7.13

(Burroway 206)

Doing this exercise will help whenever you feel stuck or if you feel yourself slowing down. And if you need more help, get Burroway’s book and check out the excellent things she has to say about all aspects and genres of creative writing.

Until next week, write — and revise — on!


Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. 4th ed., Pearson, 2014.





Color-Coded Writing

Group member Katherine has been teaching with me in MCC’s English Department for years, but I’d really only known her as a teaching acquaintance. But at the end of this past spring semester, she came into my office to chat about writing (the kind of chat I am always in the mood for) and told me she’d finished the first draft of a memoir centered around her first pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. She wanted to keep working on the manuscript and figure out what next steps to take toward publishing, so I thought she’d be a perfect fit for our group — and clearly she is! Here is Katherine’s method of organizing her thoughts and her revisions.

This is a guest post from Katherine Grant, a member of this summer’s Online Writing Group:

Well, currently I reread my work in its entirety (currently 85+ pages) about once every two weeks, but for smaller attempts at revision and improvement, I color-code my writing. This is something that I began doing when I was working on my master’s thesis in an attempt to keep track of what I felt like was completely finished, what still needed some attention, and what still needed to be started.

All of my text is black when I start, but when my memoir got past thirty pages, I used this strategy to keep track of where I thought I had made progress and where I needed to focus my attention.

A red color coded to-do

Color-Coded Writing

The color red has always served as my to-do list or for things that are nowhere near ready or not even started. I currently have a to-do list at the end of the memoir with anecdotes that still need to be written. For my students, I encourage a to-do list with their writing as well. I often refer to that to-do list as their road map to where they want to go on their next writing trip (what claims still need to be proven). Color-coding my writing helps me to keep the ideas in my head straight, even if I don’t have time to write them entirely just yet. I see RED and realize that work must be done.

The color blue means things are close and that I am pretty happy with this draft, but things aren’t quite polished or are not quite in the best location.

Black text means that the writing is done, polished, and in the correct location. Sometimes black text will still receive a minor revision to correct a typo or change a word choice, but major revisions are complete.


There is a lot written by and for teachers about using color-coding to help students differentiate supporting points and ideas as they develop academic essays, and it’s something I use in my classroom, too. But Katherine’s approach to using it within a document for revision is new to me and it’s something I’m interested in trying. Thanks, Katherine, for sharing your process!