As challenging as the completion of a draft is, the work of significant revision that follows can be equally daunting. This is not a matter of light housekeeping—dusting, polishing, tidying up. Very rarely that’s all a draft needs; normally something bigger needs to happen before a substantial piece of writing achieves its full potential. Walls might need to be knocked down and rebuilt, new powerlines connected, skylights opened up. This is deep revision, exuberant work that demands courage and honesty and is most effectively accomplished with a deliberate strategy. Intended for writers working on a novel or a narrative nonfiction book such as a memoir or historical account, or a substantial short story or narrative essay, this workshop will introduce a range of revision techniques for achieving the emotional and technical clarity necessary to make the process efficient and even pleasurable. Through a series of daily exercises and thoughtful scrutiny of successful published writing in various genres, you will apply those techniques to selections from your draft, making them more convincing, engaging, coherent, and original. The class aims to develop practices that will help you successfully complete the revision of your current work, and that will sustain you throughout your career as a writer.
Lon Otto (Ph.D. Indiana University) published his third collection of stories in fall 2015—A Man in Trouble, from Brighthorse Books. His previously published books are A Nest of Hooks (University of Iowa Press), winner of the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, Cover Me (Coffee House Press), and the craft ebook Grit: Bringing Physical Reality into Imaginative Writing (Writers Workshop Press). His writing in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry is in many anthologies, including The Pushcart Prize (Pushcart Press), American Fiction (New Rivers Press), Flash Fiction and Flash Fiction Forward (W.W. Norton), Townships (University of Iowa Press), and Not Normal, Illinois (Indiana University Press), and in the craft text Best Words, Best Order (St. Martin’s Press). Several of his stories have been broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” He is professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught literature and writing for many years.