Working the Puzzle: Revising Fiction

“The idea behind the [mosaic] assignment is wonderful and it relates to the writing revision process so well.” – Shanti C., Working the Puzzle participant

Next Start Date: Monday November 6, 2017

About the Course:

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 process more intimidating.

After 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.

Working the Puzzle is my four-week online course on my revision process. Over the course session, we 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 take an analytical approach to revision, and end the course with one revised piece (10 pages maximum), on which they receive feedback from me and from a student partner l assign. After the course ends, students also have the option to get a second round of feedback from me on their piece, at no additional cost.

This class is 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.

Outline for the class:

Week 1: Revision Mindset

Video lecture posted on Monday

How to develop a puzzle-solving approach to revision. A reflective, art-based exercise introduces students to this approach and prepares them to use it in their own work.

Week 2: Key Elements

Video lecture posted on Monday

Three essential elements (with maybe one bonus) to look for in revising your work. For homework, students 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

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

Week 4: Workshop

Video lecture posted on Monday

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

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

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

Next start date: Monday November 6, 2017

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 11/6.

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.