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Revise by pretending your copy isn’t yours

One of the challenges of revising my own work is that I’m too close to my words and ideas. I recently found a technique, though, that helps me achieve distance and offers a new perspective.

When I read my drafts, I practice the same skill that I use when I critically read and annotate literature. I ask myself what I think the “author” (me)  intended to communicate from a writerly perspective.

I select a piece of my text and ask:

What did “the writer” mean or want to say? Why did the author choose this approach, this way of saying it, this form? I examine sentences and words with the same lens that I do when I read and analyze fiction, poetry, and memoir to ask myself if the sentences work. Do they flow? Why did the writer make these choices and what is the result?

In effect, I’m pretending that I’m reading someone else’s words.

I write notes in the margins, circle words and sentences, and look for reoccurring themes in case I can build them out in the manuscript.

Sometimes in asking these questions, the answers give me new revelations that lead to a better way of expressing my ideas. This distancing technique helps me step back and see my pages more like a new reader would.

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