Exercise #9 – Revision Exercise – Interviewing Your Draft

For this week’s exercise, choose one of the four essays you have written this semester. Consider choosing not necessarily the one that you think is the best so far, but the one that you think has the most meaningful thing to say.

Many times the key to revision is learning to “listen’ to what our draft is trying to tell us. Writers have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about what is and what is not on the page as opposed to what we hope is on the page. One technique I find useful is to interrogate the draft. Interviewing the draft can help you help think more deeply about what it is you hope to accomplish. Here are some questions to ask about your draft:


  1. What is the one thing I wanted to say, the single most important message I intended to deliver?
  2. What single message does the draft deliver?
  3. To whom is the message being sent?
  4. Does everything in the draft support the intended message? If not, do the digressions serve a different purpose?
  5. What are the most effective elements in the draft?
  6. What are the most underdeveloped parts of the drafts? Where does the draft break down or take a turn?
  7. Are the reader’s questions all answered by the end of the draft?
  8. Is the voice of the draft appropriate to the reader? Does that voice stay consistent?
  9. Is there anything that can be cut?
  10. Are the portions of information adequate? Is it saying something the reader already knows, or does it provide new insight or information?
  11. What do you want the reader to think feel or do after reading the draft? If you were the reader, would you think, feel that way, or take that action?

And, from the Sue Miller Essay, “Lecture on Revision,” here are two additional questions (from p. 350).

  • What drew you to write this essay?
  • What is the central struggle (center) of the essay? Has that struggle been made clear to the reader?

It may be that not all of these questions are relevant to your essay, but the majority should be. Work to answer at least 10 of them.

Make sure you identify at the top of your page which of your essays you have chosen.

Please email to me by April 23.

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