Make Every Line Count

Yesterday I had a great time running a revision workshop for the eighteen writers in Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Mouthful Monologue Festival. At this point in the process, the writers have done an amazing job working with their professional actor, director, and dramaturg to deepen their monologues by adding details and raising the stakes. While their monologues are all stronger, they’re also longer, which means it’s time for the accordion metaphor:

Make Every Line Count copy

This accordion metaphor is the lead-in to my Make Every Line Count challenge. Above all, this challenge reminds writers of all genres how important it is to go line-by-line at some point in the revision process – and to make a CHOICE about every line before moving on to the next. It also reminds writers that every line should be there for a reason; we can and should use that reason as our editing compass.

For any poets who do this challenge, I recommend that you approach it as Make Every Word Count.

Let’s do this!


Genres: Any

Creative Process: Revision

Age Level: 13+

As you walk through your piece of writing, you have to make a choice about every line: Keep, Clarify, or Cut. Before you jump into the deep end, take a breath and do steps one and two.

Step One:

In one sentence, articulate your goal for this piece of writing. Here’s another way to think about it: what’s your intended impact on your audience?

As you proceed through the challenge, use this goal like a mantra – let it help you make your decisions!

Step Two:

Set a Keep, Clarify, and Cut goal that challenges you. Do you want to clarify 10 lines, maybe even 20? Chances are, you can cut at least 20% of your piece without losing any information. If you need additional guidance when it comes to setting these goals, check out four revision strategies I’ve learned from some great mentors!

Step Three:

Going line by line through your piece, Keep, Clarify, or Cut. To help you make choices, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this line serve my one-sentence goal for writing this piece?
  • Are the ideas and information in this line clear?
  • Is the structure of this line clear and concise?
  • Does this line move the action/narrative forward?
  • Does this line reveal new information?
  • Does this line repeat information the audience has already learned?

Remember, take your time. Make intentional choices, and know that this challenge is helping you to some serious revising.

So go on, Make Every Line Count! Feel free to ask questions or post about your experience in the comments. Remember, whenever I post an activity (like this one), prompt, or a guided writing exercise in the Support For Writers section of my site, I will always write a blog post about the activity as well. That way, if you follow my blog you’ll always know when new exercises become available.

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