Sunday, July 08, 2012

Swimming Backwards

Have you ever turned onto your back after doing the crawl or breaststroke across the pond or lake to discover an entirely new view of where you’ve been in the water?

Instead of swimming with your eyes focused ahead of you, searching for reefs or underwater obstacles, you swim with your eyes fixed on where you came from, where you’ve been, rather than on where you’re going. (Careful not to bonk your head!)

You can use this notion of swimming backward to revise your work more efficiently. Instead of beginning at the opening sentence and chapter of your novel or short story, you can start at the end and move backward -- page by page, scene by scene, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence--  making your way toward the opening of your story.

Notice how the process encourages you to review how you reached the ending rather than when (or whether) you’ll reach it.

Revising backwards will give you a chance to look differently at each paragraph. Does each sentence help build momentum, suspense, expectancy in your reader? Do the words compel the reader to move forward? Can you see things that you might have missed if you were reading the passages forward instead of backward?

Start at your ending, then work toward your beginning.

Begin at the bottom of the page and work toward the top.

Instead of reading sentences from the start of the paragraph, work your way backwards from the end of the paragraph.

See what happens and let us know.

For more info on working backwards on revisions, visit:


Augusta Scattergood said...

Great post! I used to do this all the time when writing short pieces. Somehow I'd forgotten all about it and besides, how could this ever work with a novel, for instance. Well, after reading this, I'm thinking of revision in a different way- from the end to the beginning. Paragraphs and chapters! Thank you, Bruce.

Bruce Black said...

I've found making revisions is often a back-and-forth process--like the ebb and flow of the surf--sometimes revising forward, sometimes revising backward. Whatever helps, right? Good luck with the revisions.