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Saturday, December 6, 2008

On Writing with Focus

When you are reading about a complex or new subject, it can be hard to know where to keep your attention. For any subject there are the core facts and mechanisms, and then there are the extra factoids that explore a portion of the subject in more detail or are simply grace notes. One way I think of learning is like a closet: you can dump a lot of facts into a jumble, or you can organize them like one of those California things: shoes in the back, pants and ties or dresses color-coordinated, shirts on the low hanger near the front, shelves with drawers to organize the miscellany so you never lose ANYTHING! (BTW, don't you envy people who can do that? But then again, you'd probably have Adrian Monk's hangups, so it might not be worth it...)

Writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, is a way for you to communicate with your reader. When I critique writing, I sometimes find the writer has SPLAT! dumped a lot of facts on me in no particular order. (This has happened to me twice in the last two days; hence it dwells in my mind right now). I have to read quite a few paragraphs to finally understand what the person is trying to say. Sometimes I never do, since the writer has left out critical information.

What do you want to say? Can you say the core of your communication in five words? Can you put your ideas into a reasonable order?

This is a short entry today -- I'd just like to ask you to have pity on your readers as you write. Lead them through your ideas simply, easily. Start by explaining the overall purpose, then move to the details. This blog has leaned more on nonfiction, but there are ways to do this in fiction as well. Hmm, another subject for me to write about...


Joanne said...

I like that - have pity on your readers! It's important to make every word count, moving the reader along seamlessly, to hold their interest.

Anonymous said...

I'd better tidy my closet!

LOL I said what I wanted to say in just FIVE WORDS!

Best wishes

Ruth Dell

Anonymous said...

I always hate it when I'm reading a book and the author goes off so far on "the bunny trail" that I have to read back to the beginning of the chapter, paragraph, or whatever to find out what their original point was.

-- Sarah Salter

KM Wilsher said...

Hello, Amy!
Good stuff. I'm constantly learning from you! I like what you said, Ruth Dell! I think I need throw a bunch of stuff away! hee hee
(have missed blogging! glad to be back. Thank you, Amy!)