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Revising Zigzag

2011 February 3
by prgiff

 When I was a new writer, I read that Beverly Cleary loved to revise. I pictured her sitting on her couch, a yellow pencil with sharpened point in her hand, putting the last perfect touches on one of the Ramona books. I despaired of ever knowing how to revise, or what to revise.

So here I am, years and books later, loving the revision stage, too. I wish I were as good at it as Beverly Cleary!

First, the esthetics. I clean my office. I don’t mean dusting. I mean getting rid of the papers that drift across my desk, the table, the chairs, and I have to confess, even the floor.

When the room is blank, as my granddaughter calls it, I can concentrate on the revision.  And yesterday I was revising the sixth ZIGZAG AFTERNOON series book.

The theme of the book is creativity. The word is difficult for young readers but I’ve surrounded it, I hope, with enough context clues so they’ll understand.

I made a list of each character, and almost every one of them has to do something creative, even if I don’t point it out to the reader. Because the book belongs to Destiny and her friend, Charlie, they’ll be the most creative. Gina, the opera singer, won’t like that, so I’ll have to give her something to be proud of, too.

I read each page slowly. I strengthen the verbs and delete as many adjectives as I can. Because this is a book for young readers, I have to be sure that the sentences are short and most of the vocabulary easy.

After all this time, it still isn’t enough to read my work on the computer. I print out each page…revise…print out…and so my office ends up in its previous condition with a sea of papers. I don’t feel too guilty; if Jim comes by, he’ll gather them up and use them for all kinds of lists.

Nice. They don’t have to be revised!

One Response leave one →
  1. Bonnie Elias permalink
    March 14, 2011

    March 14, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Reilly Giff,

    We are fifth and sixth grade students at Dana Middle School. Every student at our school gets to take an elective for one period of our day. Our elective class called Book O’Rama, is for students who love to read.

    Our librarian, Ms. Forster, recommended your book, Eleven, and we read it together as a class. We couldn’t put the book down. We were disappointed when the bell rang and we had to stop reading. Our class wondered how the story would have been different if Sam could have read throughout the entire book. Mack was one of our favorite characters because he kept the mystery going. The fact that the evidence leading to Sam’s history was in the attic, a difficult place to reach without being caught, made the story more suspenseful.

    Our class was inspired by your writing and now we are independently reading more of your titles, including Nory Ryan’s Song, Pictures of Hollis Woods, Lily’s Crossing, and A House of Tailors. We had a quick look at your website last week and are looking forward to talking to you and commenting on your blog.

    Your readers,

    Bonnie Elias and Class
    Ms. Elias’ Book O’Rama Elective
    Dana Middle School
    1775 Chatsworth Blvd.
    San Diego, CA 92107

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