32 Repetition and Revision


1. In jazz music, there’s a principal sometimes called “repetition and revision” (or “repetition with revision”) — a few notes or a musical motif is played and repeated, and then eventually it’s played again, but with little changes. A lot of little changes over time can lead, ultimately, to an end that’s very different from a beginning, even though the changes were small.


2. Choose 5 sentences from other exercises you’ve completed. It doesn’t matter what those sentences are or what they’re from. (Totally separate sentences from different exercises will be the most fun!) Cut and paste those sentences into a new document.


3. Create a new piece of writing that includes (but is not limited to):

  • the 5 sentences as you originally wrote them
  • at least 3 revisions of each sentence, with minor changes. (Change punctuation, words, word order, etc.) The revisions should be of the most recent version of the sentence, not the original. By the end (especially if you revise more than the minimum 3 times) your sentences could look quite different from the original version.

4. Do your best to make this piece of writing coherent. It will be hard, but you’ll get more out of the exercise if you really try to make sense with it all.


5. Remember: These aren’t the only sentences in the piece of writing. You can fill it with all sorts of other sentences, too. You just need to make sure you get the repetitions and revisions in.


EXAMPLE: Here’s a sentence repeated and revised 4 times:

This is an example sentence.

This is an example sentence. [repetition]

This sentence is an example. [revision 1]

This ruling is an example. [revision 2 (synonym)]

For example, there is this ruling. [revision 3]

For example, the king is ruling. [revision 4]

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