I channeled my inner 13th-century scribe yesterday while I was copying some of my important mag editing notes. Among the topics: focus.
According to my wonderful professor and likely some wisdom of her predecessor, focus asks, “What am I saying?”
It doesn’t mean a story is only about one topic. Rather, it means each story has one idea to which all others relate. Maybe two main ideas, but you get it.
Focus occurs between information gathering and writing. A writer must actively plan how to traverse the language from lead to conclusion, and a clear focus is a good remedy for confusion.
One tip: label or summarize what’s happening in each paragraph.
Although that might not be possible on deadline, the summary trick is illuminating. It forces me, the writer, to be absolutely clear about what I’m saying and how the story is progressing. Summarizing can identify leaps of logic and unanswered questions.
Better to work on these now than have your editor come calling.