Writing well: focus & organisation

Photo: Bernie Borghetti/Flickr Some rights reserved
Photo: Bernie Borghetti/Flickr Some rights reserved

This week you’ll continue to research, and begin to organise the information you’ve found in a way which makes sense to you.

Every writer does this differently, but here are some suggestions from Jack Hart:

  • Take time to sift through notes and other background material. Mark key points and highlight especially valuable information. Be as creative as you like – use colours, arrange notes in labelled piles, whatever makes most sense to you.
  • List your main points. One objective of organising your information is to make things easy to find when you write, but the critical mission is to find out what the story’s about.
  • Refine your focus. Once you’ve reviewed your notes and listed your key points, you’re ready to organise, or give form to the theme which holds the whole mess together.
  • Talk it out with someone. Talking over your material after information-gathering and before writing can help sort things out in your own mind.

¬†(Adapted from A Writer’s Coach, by Jack Hart, pp.34-35.)

The importance of your theme statement

Take your theme statement and put it at the top of your first page, where you’re going to begin what we’ll call a “jot outline” of your story.

Bill Blundell calls the theme statement the single most important bit of writing¬†he does on any story. He suggests that you let your statement guide your work. “Let it reproach you, question you, when you stray too far from it.” (Blundell in The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, p.27.)

In summary, your statement should guide the writing of the body of your story. It can also provide the basis for your lead. And it’s a useful short synopsis to send to editors when you’re pitching a story.

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