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27 Focus Success at a sampling of the preceding moves makes some writers anxious to write the actual draft. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re eager to flesh out a discovery, fit an expanded idea into context, or put all the information you’ve gathered to work, it may make sense to jump right into a draft. Never waste enthusiasm and momentum. Just remember that the writing process is recursive—you can, and probably should, return to any steps you’ve skipped. You can focus—and organize, and gather—after you’ve written a draft, after you’ve seen where your words take you. But it probably won’t be the most efficient way to work. If you can wait until you’ve done some preliminary focusing and organizing—quick, low-stress work—then your draft will be more on target and will likely need less revision. Focusing may be the step most often neglected by inexperienced writers. Some writers are used to, and may have gotten away with, an information dump, simply cramming all the material they’ve gathered into their draft, leaving it up to the reader to decide what’s most important. Others have a fairly clear sense in their own heads about what’s key, but it doesn’t occur to them that they haven’t provided the reader with clues about their thinking. Focus    223 Occasionally a writing assignment will come to you with a ready-made focus. The boss will say, “Write a report on company B, explaining why we shouldn’t partner with them,” or a professor will say, “Write five pages on the differences between Western and Islamic economics.” But even when you’re pointed in a particular direction, you probably have more focusing to do. Which reason are you going to emphasize? What effects will you concentrate on? Purposes of Focusing Consciously focusing helps the writer as well as the reader. Writers may have a vague sense of the reason they’re writing and what they’re trying to get across, but unless they ask themselves some focusing questions, their work is likely to remain vaguely centered on a subject, rather than aimed at accomplishing a specific goal. Focusing is a crucial part of a writer’s thinking. If a writer hasn’t sufficiently narrowed and aimed material so that it’s focused in his or her own head, imagine the difficulties the reader will have. Unfocused material may be interesting and may provide the reader with useful information , but it will seldom be persuasive or move the reader to action, which is the point of much that we write. Writers who haven’t been thinking about audience, purpose, and especially genre earlier in the writing process should be considering those issues at this stage. For your purposes, what should your focus be? What does your audience see as your focus? Does your genre give you encouragement for one kind of focus but not others? A report to the company CEO about a project, for instance, would not be the place to critique or reward a particular employee’s contribution to that project. But that contribution might be topic number one in a personnel evaluation. Besides focusing the writing product itself, the writer also needs to focus his or her activity. The individual moves in this chapter should help you choose where to put your time and effort. There’s nothing more disheartening than facing what seems like an impossibly large task with no idea where to begin. The first step is to break the huge into manageable chunks and focus on a chunk at a time. Always know what the next step is going to be. One purpose of this book, and especially the order of the moves section, is to help you write as efficiently as possible, spending little time on activities that don’t pay off. The earlier in the process you focus, the more targeted your efforts can be, and your whole process can be efficient. BUT (and it’s a big but) if you focus too early and ignore the tangents that spring up in discovering and developing moves, you may end up with a focus, but not the most interesting or relevant one. Many writers go through quick cycles of the first five sets of moves, with focusing leading to new discoveries, which require more developing, gathering , and integrating, and then the expanded material needs focusing again. Some of the moves...


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Literary form -- Study and teaching
  • Language arts.
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