What Makes Nonfiction Writing Good? Focus
One of the main things I look for when I am copyediting and/or manuscript development editing, is this: focus.
What do I mean by focus? Focus means your words have a target, and that target is the main paint of your book and your chapters.
Focus is one of the main elements of good writing.
You need to have a book title, even if it’s just a “rough draft” title, often called a working title. If you can come up with a subtitle, even better.
Your book title tells your reader what your book will be focused on.
Picture a bullseye on a target, like the one in the graphic of this post. Imagine an arrow sailing toward that bullseye. That arrow represents the book title, and it’s just one of the ways to establish focus for your writing.
Chapter Titles and Chapter Summaries
Chapter titles also create focus. Sometimes chapter titles are creative; sometimes they tell exactly what the chapter is about. Either one is fine; just make sure they in some way indicate the trajectory of the chapter.
Next, write a chapter summary for each chapter saying what that chapter is about. You should be able to answer in no more than about 5 to 10 sentences.
You can create chapter titles and summaries at two stages. First, do this as a prewriting activity. Or, if you’ve already written a rough draft manuscript, go back now and write a chapter title and summary for each of your chapters. Aim for no more than 10 sentences per chapter summary.
If you find a chapter summary is longer, this might be an indication you don’t have a clear focus for that chapter. So keep refining it. You might have to do some rough draft writing before you can create a succinct chapter summary. That’s okay. But do continue to tweak. And do this for every chapter.
Again, imagine the arrows flying toward the bullseye. Each arrow represents a chapter title and summary flying toward the bullseye, the main focus of your chapter.
Focus is crucial to good writing because it allows your readers to easily follow your ideas. And of course, that’s your goal.
In future blog posts, I’ll discuss other ways to create focus in your writing.
So glad you’re here.
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Great advice! Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Thank you, Julia! I’m so glad it was helpful! Thanks for being here.
Thanks, Melanie. This is super helpful.
Thank you, Deborah. I’ve found that if writers can establish good focus, that improves their writing dramatically!