Read it backwards. Deep Revision: Part 5.

This is Part Five of a 5-part tutorial called Deep Revision. This series is designed to help you prepare for The Little Bird Writing Contest.
For Part One, click here.

To be a good editor of your own work, you have to learn how to look at your story as though you weren’t the one who wrote it. This, as you know, is an almost impossible trick.

The problem is that when you re-read your story, you know the context of every sentence. You know how the story starts, where it goes, and how it ends. You know what your sentences are supposed to mean, obviously, because you wrote them that way. So how can you make yourself un-know this?

The challenge is to separate the scene in your mind from what you’ve actually got on the page. There’s the scene, pre-language, and then there is the scene you have attempted to write. Your blind spot lives between these two scenes.

Don’t be lazy – attend to that blind spot! Here’s how.


Read your story out loud. Read it backwards. Start with the last sentence of your story and then move through the pages until you get to your first sentence. Go slow, one sentence at a time. Keep a notebook near you, and have a highlighter to mark the ones that need your attention.

You want every single sentence in your story to glitter with an intelligence of its own. To do this, you must feel each sentence out of context. Get to know each sentence intimately as an individual. Don’t consider context or plot for now. This is how you can see your sentences for what they are – and how you can recognize when they need to be sharpened.

It’s an easy trick – and when you take the time to do this, it’s unpredictable and revealing.

Go to it! And let me know what you discover about your writing in the comments below.

P.S. – In case you missed it, here’s Deep Revision: Part 4. And remember, there are only 2 weeks left to submit your story to The Little Bird Contest!

If you’re new here, subscribe to get contest updates and writing wisdom delivered to your inbox with love.

Read the comments or add yours.

pinterestfacebooktwitterShare This

Love this Sarah! I’ve always read my stuff out loud to see where I stumbled – but this sounds even better. Thanks – I will try this with my next piece.

Purabi Das says:

Dear Sarah, this tutorial comes at the right time since I am in process of re-writing my first novel – gave up my job to write full-time. Thank you so much – you are an inspiration!

Mel says:

I love this idea. There is a small group of us who get together and share our work and reading aloud helps me to identify awkward sentences (and is a strategy I employ with my A-level creative writing class for the same purpose) – but reading it backwards helps focus on the nitty-gritty sentence composition. Thanks so much for your ideas!

Write a Reply

Write what you want to read.