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Seeing Your Story Through New Eyes

Revising your story means seeing your story through new eyes. One of the best ways to revise a piece of short fiction is to have someone else read it and give you his or her impressions of what’s working and what needs work. It takes a mature writer to be able to handle feedback on a work-in-progress. However, once you’ve finished a solid draft, it’s time to put the story out there for others to read. How else will you begin to see it through new eyes?

Ask someone you trust to read your story.
  1. On the first pass, have your reader underline the sections he or she finds striking or original and draw squiggly lines under sections that don’t seem to be working.

  2. Ask your reader to recap what happens in the story, point by point, without referencing the text. Take careful notes, especially when the reader’s memory or understanding falters.

  3. Ask your reader to read your story out loud, one section at a time. Have the reader stop describe the images he/she sees while reading each section. Take copious notes.

  4. Along with your reader, perform the passages of dialogue in your story out loud, alternating characters, as if it were a play. Listen carefully for places where the dialogue sounds forced. Repeat the exercise, this time switching roles. Ask your reader to underline dialogue that sounds natural and draw squiggly lines underneath dialogue that sounds clumsy when spoken.

  5. Ask your reader to question everything that happens in your story. Looking at your plot structure, what seems implausible or impossible? Where does the logic of the story break down?

  6. Finally, ask your reader to fill out the following Short Fiction Workshop PDF.

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