words and images by mk swanson
Getting My Writing in Focus

Getting My Writing in Focus

Focus is Crucial 

I have been a writer of poetry, stories, and novels for more than 35 years. I have read, at best estimate, 7500 books, and so I know about the turning point, the climax, the denouement, and the plot arc. But I couldn’t connect them with my own novels.

Until last weekend.

At Joyce Sweeney and Jamie Morris’ Next Level Craft Intensive, Scene and Structure, I spent three days discussing plot, structure, and scene with a small group of writers. What came to me by the end of the weekend made me feel like I did when I got my first pair of glasses:

“So that’s why I couldn’t catch a ball. I was BLIND!”

It’s taking me a while to apply this new found clarity. All I’ve done so far is pull some extraneous material out of one novel, and reread the high points of another. 

I see now that I need to begin my current novel with an inciting incident that is just visible to the reader, but not to my protagonist. I can also see that I need to take out the middle section of the other, which interrupts the plot at an important point.

There’s a lot to do. Thank Jamie and Joyce, I can see the way, now.


  1. Jeez, MK. If that' what you're doing BLIND, I can't wait to see the rabbit you pull out of your Magic Writing Hat now that you've got some Structure Specs clearing up the fog!

    Also, just reading Jonathan Lethem's newest short story collection (crazy-cool short, spec. fiction) called THE WALL OF THE SKY, THE WALL OF THE EYE, and thinking about YOU almost every other minute.

    Let me know if you know/like his work.


  2. I haven't read Lethem. I'm funny about short fiction–so much of it is grim, (my own included), that I tend to shy away. I'll have to try him out.

    I'm supposed to turn in a pair of Story Circle blogs by tomorrow on writing or editing, and I'm experiencing the big BLANK. Oof.

  3. A) Oh, yeah. Lethem's grim. (Understatement!) But brilliant in his weird/subtle evocation of a (slightly) future world.

    B) Would pretending you're in workshop, and I've set a timed-writing help?

    C) My word veri is "pesto." Seriously. Maybe THAT would help!

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