About ten years ago I wrote an article, quickly proofread it, and sent it into a magazine that handled that type of article. After waiting one month, it felt much longer, I received a reply in the mail. The rejection letter was a standard form letter; “Your article doesn’t meet our needs at this time…” and at the end was a note saying, “The article was too tangential.” In the end, I just threw both the rejection letter, and the article out, frustrated. My bad!!!!
Last night after reading the article “Life After Almost” in the September issue of “Writer’s Digest” I now realize it probably would have sold if I would have rewritten it with more focus. Today’s blog is not about the encouragement you should receive from personalized rejection letters. That was covered perfectly in the article. Today, I’m going to approach the subject of focus.
While writing, it’s easy to get off the subject and follow a new line of thought. This is perfectly fine in the first draft, and is something almost expected. As we free write our articles, we tend to write as thoughts enter our mind, so going off will happen. If you try to send in something that is random, or “tangential” you will be rejected.
After your initial draft, you will need to edit. While you are going through the first edit look for any common threads that will make up the article; don’t forget to file away the material you don’t use, they can become future articles. Once you have the common threads, these will now become the skeleton of your article. This skeleton is your central theme on which to focus your article.
Now that you have your focus, you will need to add a little muscle, nerve and heart. At this point, you’re still “taking notes” but this is where your article’s structure will come from. At this stage you also need to write down any questions that you will need the article to answer, and do the research that will give you the information.
The final phase in writing a well focused article is adding the skin that will hold all the pieces together. Now you will need to organize all the pieces in a coherent order, fill in the missing transitions and connecting words, and write it in the best possible way to convey the message you are trying to write.
Also, in the final phase, you will need to proofread carefully to make certain there are no grammar, and spelling errors. Keep proofreading until you are comfortable there are no mistakes.
I realize every writer has a different method to approach writing, and there is no “one” method to writing a perfectly focused article, but this is the one I’ve found the most helpful. I hope it does the same for you.