Revising for Story

Before you do anything else, you’ve got to make sure your essay has a clear narrative arc. Here’s how.

1. Return to the templates.

Essay templates aren’t just for drafting. In fact, I use them most often after students have already written an initial draft. Take another look at the four templates:

I. The before, turning point, after (BTA) template

  1. Before
  2. Turning point
  3. After

II. The challenge and solution template

  1. External challenge
  2. Internal challenge
  3. Solution

III. The event, lesson, application template

  1. Event
  2. Lesson
  3. Application

IV. The injustice template

  1. Injustice
  2. Why I want to go to law school

Now pick one and see if your essay fits. See my lesson on essay templates for more details.

You might also try to write a two- or three-sentence outline of your essay without regard to the templates. If you can’t sum it up in two or three sentences, you’ve got work to do.

2. Do an elevator pitch of your essay.

The term elevator pitch comes from an imaginary scenario: you step into an elevator with a muckety-muck, and you’ve got to sell her on your idea before she steps out.

In this exercise, you’ll be selling your essay. Explain what it’s about and why it’s important in thirty seconds or less. It helps to do this with someone else. My brain works better when I talk to a real, live person who holds me accountable to logic and taste.

If you can’t boil it down to a thirty-second summary, you’ve got work to do. Sometimes you’ll pitch not the essay that you actually wrote, but the essay that you should have written. See the video below for more on elevator pitches.

3. Reverse Outline

A reverse outline is a paragraph-by-paragraph summary of your essay. The next lesson shows you how to make and use one.

Instructor: David

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