1. You’ll need a partner for this exercise, someone who is willing to share a piece of writing of their own with you, and with whom you are willing to share a piece of writing.
2. Exchange a piece of writing with your partner. Ideally, this should be a previous writing exercise. (They do not need to be pieces of writing for the same exercise, but this exercise does work best with informal, drafty writing that the writer doesn’t feel a deep attachment to.)
3. Change your partner’s piece of writing in significant ways: shift the point of view, add and subtract details, change the order of events, rewrite sentences, etc. Do whatever you think will make the piece of writing interestingly and thoughtfully different. (Note: Your goal is not to make the writing “better” or “worse”, just different.) Once you are done, send the new version to your partner.
4. When you receive the new version of your piece of writing, read it over. Think about what the changes do to the piece of writing.
5. Now make changes of your own to the new version. Your goal is not to make it more like the original, but rather to build off of the changes your partner made. In other words, do to it what you did to your partner’s piece of writing. Change point of view, add and subtract details, change words and sentences, etc. Once again, make it different in an interesting and thoughtful way.
You’ll end up with three versions of your piece of writing:
VERSION 1: The original piece of writing
VERSION 2: Your partner’s edit of your piece of writing
VERSION 3: Your edit of Version 2
You can, of course, keep this process going and see what happens, making Version 4, Version 5, Version 6, Version 7…