Breaking Out The Focus Words – My Writing Strategy For Staying On Track

three post-it notes hung with wooden clothes pegs

I’m hammering away at my next manuscript, and I’ve started using post-it notes as a way to keep myself on track as I’m getting through a scene or a chapter.

You see, I have a bad habit of knowing where I want something to build and then meandering off a bit, which only creates stuff I have to slice later, or rearrange once I’m into my edits. I’ve found that if I pick a word – just one word – it helps me focus.

Sometimes the word is for the overall tone of the scene. Something like “Unsure” or “Walls” or “Chaos.” Sometimes I’ll put up a few notes – color coded (this works great) to remind me of what the major players in that scene are bringing to the table or fighting against or fighting for. Those are words like “Empty” or “Futile,”  “Exhausted” or “Denial” or “Winning.”

I stick them right up on my monitor, so they’re staring me in the face as I work the scene, reminding me to keep that momentum going and focus on that word. Books are made of words, it’s true. But the driving word behind the words your characters are saying, or enacting, is the essence of your story.

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