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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday Workout: Where's My Focus?

From the Slush Pile:

Dear Liana,

I've just started writing again. I let my friend look at it and they told me my chapters are all wrong. They told me I need to make each chapter it's own little story. How do you do this?

Scared To Do It Wrong

Dear Scared,
Well.... that's an interesting problem. Are you sure of the advice? I'm not sure I could make each chapter it's own story. It would be an interesting way to write, but I'm not sure it's the best. Maybe what your reader wanted was a focus and purpose to each chapter?


If you haven't done so already, go make a list of chapter number and the focus of the chapter.

Why Do I Need Focus?
Here's my short answer: Writers ramble.

We get on tangents and let our creativity take flight. Sometimes it works... other times it winds up like the picture above this post. Take a good hard look, what's the focus of that picture? Her lips? Her necklace maybe? The fact that the camera ought to be taken away until the photographer escapes photography school?

You don't want your writing to lose it's focus. So know where it is. It may mean losing some beautiful writing or a favorite line. That happens. Just tell yourself: It's better to lose a pretty description than a reader.


  1. Good post and definitely something to keep in mind as we work through our MS. Thanks.

  2. i think it's a good thing to almost think of your chapters as mini-books. there should be some sort of conflict and resolution within each chapter...or what's the point?

  3. Jeannie, I was thinking of a complete mini-book as new beginning middle and end in every chapter. That sounds confusing.

    I think every chapter needs a goal that the characters are working toward. They may not finish the quest, but they should have made progress.

    I suppose it all depends on what the person giving the advice meant... and I honestly don't know. This was a question I fielded from a new writer in my writing group.

  4. I do try to write in scenes. Perhaps that is what was being referenced here???

  5. I it's good advice and what is meant is that each chapter should have a hook, a goal, obstecles, a reversal, a climatic moment and an ending hook.

  6. Yup! I usually try to look at chapters in terms of hook, conflict, cliffhanger. They can be subtle, but those elements need to be there, and everything needs to revolve around them.

  7. For my last wip, I set up a spreadsheet which basically had whose POV the chapter was, and what happened. Haven't yet done it for this one, but will definitely do it for revisions. Great advice Lei!