Announcing a new pilot course!

Working the Puzzle: Revising Fiction

Revision, the process of stepping back from your work and re-seeing it, is critical to creating good and successful writing. For many of us, it’s also the toughest part of the process. It can stop us in our tracks, or we can try to go around it, sending unfinished or weak work out into the world.

For a long time, I had a lot of trouble revising my own work. I would get so invested in what I had put on the page that I couldn’t imagine changing it. A lot of unsuccessful pieces went out on submission, and the rejections discouraged me and made the whole process more intimidating.

After a lot of trial and error, I developed a revision method that drew on my engineering problem-solving skills (yes, I have an engineering degree, and no, I’ve never used it for anything else 🙂 ). For me, the key to successful revision is to look at my writing as a puzzle. It will have pieces missing and pieces of other puzzles mixed in, but if I look at it the right way, I can figure out how to put it together.

My process has helped me let go of the personal investment in my work. I can see it clearly, re-see it fully, and dig into making it better. Revision is now my favorite part of the writing process. It’s made all the difference in writing successful, publishable work, and I love to do it.

Lake Sable writing
Tip #1: find your favorite place to work.

On Monday September 18, I’m launching a four-week online pilot course on my revision process. As a professional teacher with more than a decade of experience in the classroom and working one-on-one, I’m excited to explore the possibilities of working online.

Over the four weeks, we’ll cover the following:

  • The puzzle-solving mindset for revision
  • Key elements to look for when revising
  • How to apply revision techniques to your work to develop a successful piece

Students will take an analytical approach to revision, and will end the course with one revised piece (10 pages maximum), on which they’ll receive feedback from me and from a student partner I’ll assign. After the course ends, students will also have the option to get a second round of feedback from me on their piece, at no additional cost.

This class will be unique in its approach to revision, both for the puzzle-solving approach and for the analytical steps students will use on their own work, consciously and deliberately developing a successful revision method to apply to all future projects.

lake sable water colors
Tip #2: take mental breaks. Contemplating water is good.

Here’s the outline for the class:

Week 1: Revision Mindset

Video lecture posted on Monday 9/18

How to develop a puzzle-solving approach to revision. Three reflective exercises over the course of the week will introduce students to this approach and prepare them to use it in their own work.

Week 2: Key Elements

Video lecture posted on Monday 9/25

Three essential elements (with maybe one bonus) to look for in revising your work. For homework, students will compare the first and final drafts of an assigned story, analyzing what the writer changed and why, with an eye to those key elements.

Week 3: Applying the Tools

Video lecture posted on Monday 10/2

Students will use the techniques we’ve discussed on a piece of their own writing (which they’ll submit when they register for the course). They’ll revise this work, up to 10 pages, and will also write a brief analysis, discussing what they changed and why.

Week 4: Workshop

Video lecture posted on Monday 10/9

Students will exchange their revised story and brief analysis with one workshop partner. Workshop partners will provide feedback to each other on their pieces and the revisions made, and will suggest further revision work as applicable.

Max writing
Tip #3: pick a good writing buddy.

The price for the four-week pilot is $197, payable by PayPal. This includes the four video lectures, handouts, assignments, and the option for additional feedback after the course.

Ultimately, I’ll run a full eight-week course on revision, in which participants will dig more deeply into the techniques, work in larger workshop groups, and have the opportunity to revise more than one piece. Students taking the pilot will get a first look at my technique, at a reduced cost, and their feedback on the class will be an integral part of building the full course.

Because of the workshop element of the class, participation will be limited to the first 12 sign-ups. Registration is open now through Monday, September 11.

Want to sign up? Use the PayPal link below to pay the course fee of $197. Once I receive your payment, I’ll send you a detailed course description and schedule, and you’ll be ready to start on 9/18.

Have questions? Email me at, with the subject line Revision Course Pilot. Looking forward to hearing from you!

photo challenge Irises
Tip #4: it’s also good to contemplate flowers.