Revising a narrative essay is a lot like revising anything else. It helps to focus on higher order issues first, such as content, development and organization, and then move on to grammar, mechanics and word choice toward the end of the process. What sets a narrative apart is the story form. Provide enough supporting details so your audience can follow the plot; also, remember to put those details in chronological order.
Step One: Thesis Statement
A narrative essay tells a story, but it also contains a thesis statement, just like any other kind of essay. Thesis statements are usually explicitly stated, often at the end of an introductory paragraph, but they can also be included in the conclusion or implied. Check with your professor for specific preferences on thesis statements.
When you revise your essay draft, first check that you have a thesis statement. Usually this is a sentence or idea that answers the question, "What is the point I want to get across with this story?"
Step Two: Supporting Details
Once you have checked for a thesis, read over the entire essay and make sure you have enough details so your audience can understand the story and get a clear picture of what's happening. Check that the details you have included are relevant to the story and aren't distracting from the plot or main points. Also, make sure the details support the thesis statement and don't contradict it. A great way to revise at this stage is to read the essay aloud to a partner and get feedback.
Step Three: Organization and Cohesion
Like other essays, a narrative essay includes an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. When revising your narrative, make sure you have an introduction that grabs your readers' attention and gives enough background information to set up the events of the story. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the introduction. The events in the body paragraphs should be organized in chronological order with paragraph breaks at scene changes or between speakers of dialogue. Include transition words between events, such as "first," "then," "suddenly" or "the next day" to show the progression of time. There is no standard number of body paragraphs for a narrative essay, so check with your instructor for specific length requirements.
Step Four: Lower Order Concerns
Once you have checked your essay for higher order concerns, shift your focus to lower order issues: grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and format. Check your paper one line or sentence at a time, covering the rest with a blank sheet of paper. Some writers like to start with the very last line of the paper and move backwards to ensure they do not get wrapped up in content at this stage. Pay special attention to each word and sentence to check that you have the correct spelling, sentence structure and punctuation. Check for correct format last, and be sure to consult your assignment instructions for preferred format.
Jamie Trusty is based in Nashville, Tenn., and has been teaching and writing for more than five years. Her concentrations are non-fiction essays, research-based argumentative writing, literary analyses and film reviews. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Middle Tennessee State University. Although Trusty focuses on publishing more "serious" work, her favorite thing to write is Twin Peaks fan fiction.