Cut up your story

This is both the scariest and the most exciting part of revision for me – playing around with story structure.

I cut up all the scenes in my story, mix them up, and rearrange. I don’t have a formula, I just go by gut, and more often than not, this process gives me deeper insight into my story – if I’m missing some crucial scenes, if my characters are underdeveloped or not pulling their weight, if I have too much backstory etc.

It also helps me spot the weakest parts of my story, scenes that don’t fit or add anything new, all of which I end up throwing out.

This exercise can feel daunting, but treat it like play — you have a copy of the story on your computer, nothing is being lost here. You’re simply trying something out, like a new outfit in a dressing room at the store, and seeing if it fits. Breaking out of a linear/chronological structure can sometimes crack open your story in beautiful, unexpected ways. Try starting your story some place other than the beginning. How does that change your story and change the reader’s experience of your story? There are so many possibilities!

N.B. I learnt this technique from Sarah Selecky’s “Deep Revision” series of exercises. I’ve adapted it and use it in the way that works best for me, but I highly recommend trying out her method as well.

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