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The Revision Question: Why? by Rochelle Melander

The most important thing is insight, that is … to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that a man does what he does. —William Faulkner

In my Write Now! Mastermind interview with author Becky Levine, she suggested that writers who experience strong feelings about a manuscript they are critiquing—I don’t like it, I’m bored, I’m annoyed—ask the question, “Why?” Why don’t I like it? Why am I bored? Why am I annoyed? When we ask why, we get closer to understanding the reasons behind our intense reactions. We uncover problems that can be fixed. Maybe we don’t like the book because the pacing is off. Perhaps we feel annoyed because the main character is acting, well, out of character.

Bring the same questioning mind to your own writing. When you experience an emotional reaction to your own work—either while writing or revising—ask why. But do not accept the first answer that comes. Ask why repeatedly to get to the core of the problem. Once you know WHY the writing is not working, you can fix it.

For more great advice from Becky Levine, check out her book, The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide.


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