University of Iowa

Are We There Yet? Revising Your Essay

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

A first draft is a wonderful thing, but it only begins the process, for writing is mostly revising. Proofreading, copy-editing, and polishing are necessary, but they are not revision. Revision is re-envisioning. It’s about getting out of your computer and working with a hardcopy. It’s about digging deeper to find out what your essay is really about, and then what else it’s about. As the essayist William Kittredge put it, “No one will pay to see you juggle one orange.” Revising means finding out if you’ve started your essay at the right place, found your ending yet, arrived at your real title. It may mean cutting ruthlessly. It may mean adding new scenes. It requires that you be persnickety, but also honest and brave.


In this week, we’ll study the revision process of published writers and do some revision exercises, but mostly we’ll critique our own drafts in workshop. Please plan to send a 10- to 15-page (3000 to 5000 words) essay draft in advance of our meeting in Iowa City.


We won’t spend our last day together licking stamps and envelopes or hitting the send button at, but we’ll work to get your essay ready to send out and we’ll talk about where to send it.