By Linda Kleczkowski, In Print Newsletter Editor/Website Administrator
I’m sure I am not alone in my struggle with finding and keeping focused in my writing. Although at times it does feel very lonely out here. Sitting in my office, all by myself; no one to talk to except my dogs….wait, wait, wait. It’s FOCUS I’m writing about not loneliness.
Even Doug has trouble focusing!
There is the general overall type of focus like making the time and commitment to FOCUS on your writing. Oh, and by the way there are all kinds of terrific books out there that can help with time management and scheduling. One I recommend is …..I’m doing it again aren’t I? Setting aside time, creating a routine, avoiding distractions, these are all helpful tools for keeping your focus ON your writing. Jeff Goins says it much better than I could in his blog post “How to Stay Focused Writing”.
But what about focus within your writing? (Imagined conversation with The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins) Um, I’m not writing a high school term paper here. I’m writing a novel, thank you very much! Oh, sorry. Well what is your novel about? It’s about a girl and an oppressive government. Can you be a little more specific? It’s about a young girl who protects her little sister by taking her place in some brutal Hunger Games. So it’s about family? Well, yes but not really. She has to fight other young people in order to win the games. Is it about survival? Well, there’s some of that in there as well but not exactly. I’m confused. Your story isn’t really about family and it’s not exactly about survival, why should I read it? Because it’s a great story about the tenacity and power of the human spirit to overcome evil. Ah, I get it now.
Did you catch that? Had Suzanne Collins focused more on the family aspect of the story or on the survival aspect, The Hunger Games would have become a very different tale. Focus not only helps in the planning of a story but it can help in the revision of it too. I just finished reading The Whisper by Carla Neggers. Throughout the entire story, Neggers kept throwing in small scenes that hinted at romance between the two main characters as well as many other characters. But to what end? The romances had nothing at all to do with the outcome of the story. I can’t make up my mind if The Whisper was supposed to be a romance driven mystery or a mystery with some romance scenes thrown in for titillation effect. Neggers would have done well (imho) to cut the number of characters in half and focus on the murder mystery instead. Needless to say it was a disappointing read.
What do you do to maintain your focus or steer it back on track when your story seems to have wondered off into the woods? Or if you’re like me and you keep rewriting the same scene or can’t get past that scene because you have no idea where the story is going? In my research I have found several techniques meant to help you re-define your focus and get back to writing that bestseller novel you’re working on.
- Go back to your logline or if you don’t have one yet create a logline
- Create a summary paragraph that sums up what your story is about
- Brainstorm with a trusted friend to determine what main point you are trying to get across
Some questions to ask when you feel you’ve lost focus in your story.
- So what?
- What is the point of this story?
- What am I trying to say?
- What is the most important idea or piece of information that I am trying to convey?
For more helpful information on finding focus in your writing, check out Lit Reactor’s article, “The Only Question Every Story Must Answer“.
I also found a wonderful visual representation of developing a focus for your story called “My Angle on Finding Focus in Writing”.
This blog is my sixth in the series complying with the In Print ABC Blog Post Challenge.