What do you need to make a zine? (7)

Our penultimate workshop session for the summer met last night! We discussed revision and preparations for making books next session. Zines, pamphlets, journals, whatever you want to call them, we will be making book objects next week, so that we can fill them with our own writing!


David Madden’s Revising Fiction introduces the concept that a writer’s imagination plays multiple roles in her process. Distinguishing between the initial idea (inspiration), the imagination that surfaces during writing and the technical imagination that assists the writer during revision, Madden touts the importance of the technical imagination required to re-envision a story in a more effective form.

The technical imagination helps the writer to envision alternative techniques to communicate her initial idea. That idea has already undergone reshaping during the writing process by the time revision is undertaken, and during revision more effective techniques to realize the story are imagined. Madden suggests that it is awareness on the reader’s part of experiencing the writer’s imagination that keeps the reader’s attention. More importantly, it is the technical imagination that helps the writer to create that feeling in the reader. So don’t neglect revision!


Our writing exercise this week was a group exercise. The exercise could, however, be adapted to use by an individual if you’re working alone. Start with a simple one-word prompt and write twelve to fourteen lines inspired by that topic. Writing a paragraph-long expository or descriptive essay is particularly effective for this exercise, but you don’t need to limit yourself. It will work for a variety of styles and formats. Set a timer for eight minutes to avoid excessive rewriting as you compose.

In a group, the next step is to pass the paper to someone else. Their task is to rewrite the passage into seven or eight lines while staying true to the initial content and message. If you’re alone, rewrite yourself. The revisionist must ask what is necessary and what is not. Making this distinction is easier most of the time for someone who has distance from the writing (i.e. not you), but this skill is also important for a writer to learn. Use a timer to increase urgency. Eight minutes is more than enough.

The third step is to pass the writing to a third person, and for this second revisionist to write the passage in three to four lines. Use the timer again.

Finally, the writing will come back to its author. The original writer will rewrite the passage in one to two lines. The exercise should help with precision and will help writers identify what is or is not necessary for inclusion. Not all passages of twelve lines are more effective distilled to two, but many are.


Finally, we come to the topic of zine preparation. What do you need to make a book next week? What do you need to create a zine?

First, check out this pdf that includes a few pages from Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine? Decide which format speaks to you. The most traditional is the 1/2 page zine. The accordian and the no-stitch are less conventional. Maybe you want to do a really small one. Once you chose format, though you’ll know what size page you’ll be using.

Next, you’ll want to decide if you’ll be printing any content in the zine. I recommend filling the pages with something even if it’s not what you had planned to include at the beginning of the summer. Type or hand-letter (or draw) this content onto paper that is a little smaller than the final page size of your zine. We will paste these into the pages next week in order to create master-sheets. These masters can be photocopied to create multiple copies. Remember to leave space for any artwork or illustrations. Feel free to draw illustrations ahead of time.

Then, decide if you’ll want any unusual binding materials (second to last page of the pdf for ideas). If you do, bring them next week. I will have thread and needles for stitched binding, glue, scissors, markers, pencils, blank copy paper in 8.5×11 and 11×17, a stapler for really small books, and some plain color cardstock for cover material. If you want fancy paper with designs or patterns, bring it.

Finally, you might want to have a cover image. This choice is up to you, but designing and realizing a cover that’s more than rudimentary on top of constructing the zine/book in two hours is a tall task. So, if you want a fancy cover, designing and creating it ahead of time would enable you to concentrate on making the finished object.

Feel free to ask me any questions! See you next week!