The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer, Kizmato.com

Rework or Rewrite? An Important Consideration During Revision

Michael BelsonGuest post written by W.O.R.D. Ink team member, Michael Belson

Why do We Revise?

An author’s written work is like their child. They nurture it, they care for it, and they want it to grow up to be the very best it can. That’s why when an author finishes a draft, they know it’s only the beginning. Now the real work begins, the work of revision, the work of taking something good and making it great, the work of taking something great and making it truly inspirational.

But what exactly is revision? I thought I knew.

What If I Need to Start Over?

Years ago, when I started out as a sixth grade writing teacher, I taught my students that revision means making changes to improve a piece of writing. It means crossing out a sentence here, adding in a sentence there, picking a new word to be more descriptive, or finding a new way of phrasing something for clarity. I wasn’t wrong. Revision is all those things. However, one fine sunny day, early on in my teaching career, I learned that revision can also be something else entirely.

“Skip lines when you write your first draft,” I told the class. “That way, when it’s time to revise, you can make your revisions in the spaces between the lines.”

I felt very clever having figured out this trick, and the plan seemed to work fine, until we were about halfway through revision time and Angel raised her hand from the back of the classroom.

“What if I need to start over?” she asked, holding up her draft with dark black lines drawn through every word she’d written. “Should I just write my new version in the spaces between the lines?”

My heart pounded. I hadn’t thought of that.

“Uh . . . sure,” I sputtered.

Another student, Trisha, shot her hand in the air without missing a beat. “Mr. Belson,” she said, “can’t you just give Angel a new sheet of paper?” Of course! Angel’s ideas had outgrown her first draft. She needed a clean slate.

A symphony went off in my head as an important realization sunk in: Just because you’ve written a draft, it shouldn’t mean you’re stuck with it. You should only rework it if it’s workable. Otherwise, rewrite it.

From that day on, I always gave my students a choice during revision time. Either make revisions to your first draft, sentence by sentence, word by word, or take what you learned from writing your first draft and use it to write a new draft, a second incarnation with a fresh approach.

revision

How Can I Apply These Ideas to My Own Writing?

Now an author myself, I haven’t forgotten the lesson I learned from Angel and Trisha. When it’s time to revise a scene I’ve written for my novel, I first ask myself whether the current draft is workable or whether I need to hunker down and just rewrite it.

The answer to that question isn’t easy to come to. Sometimes you have to try to rework the piece before you realize you need to rewrite it. Other times you already know you’ll need to rewrite it before you’ve even finished writing it the first time. There’s no exact formula, but here are a couple of telltale signs that it might be time to rewrite:

  • If, when making revisions, you’re crossing out more of the piece than you’re keeping, it might be time to rewrite.

  • If you feel unsatisfied with the piece, and you can’t seem to get it right no matter what revisions you make, it might be time to rewrite.

  • If you look back at what you’ve written and realize you’re already looking at the topic with a new perspective, it might be time to rewrite.

Now let’s say you’ve decided it is time to rewrite a draft. Does that mean you have to completely scrap the old draft and start 100% from scratch? Sometimes that’s the best choice because it allows space to let fresh thoughts bloom. However, sometimes it makes more sense to keep your old draft handy in case there was something useful there. That way, you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel. Further, you might even transfer whole paragraphs or sections from your old draft into your new one.

Ultimately, there’s a thin line between reworking a piece and rewriting it, and every author’s process is different, so trust yourself. And if you’re in one of those moments when you’re not sure what your piece needs or how to make it better, you just might consider taking a fresh crack at it.

the revision process

blog.patrickrothfuss.com

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