Monday, May 24, 2010

Staying on Track with an Article

I just returned from teaching at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference last week and while I was there I had the opportunity to meet with lots of new writers. I love talking to those just starting out—they are so enthusiastic it’s contagious.

But with that enthusiasm sometimes comes a lack of focus. Newer writers tend to want to cover everything, in every piece they write. So today I’m going to give you some hints to help you stay on track.

The ability to keep focused on your subject matter is important whether you write fiction or non-fiction. But this column will deal with short writing—specifically with articles. In the next few weeks we’ll tackle other forms of writing.

It's critical to keep your reader engaged when you’re writing an article. Today’s readers have shorter attention spans than ever before and very few will tolerate rabbit trails to nowhere. Here are some specific ways to keep your articles on track.
  • Pinpoint Focus – make your subject matter as specific as possible. Don’t just write about babysitting, that’s way too broad a subject. Pick a slant, like babysitting certification for teenagers.
  • Theme Sentence – I always have a single sentence that sums up the point of my article. If I can’t say it in one sentence, I know I haven't narrowed my topic sufficiently. I write that sentence on a sticky note and keep it visible while I do my research and write my article. It helps me cull out information I don’t need and keep me focused.
  • Self Editing – I always take time to go back though my article and check to see that every single sentence relates to my focus. It may be a beautifully crafted sentence, but if it doesn’t relate it’s useless to me and especially to my reader.
What tips have helped you to stay focused on your subject? I'd love know, so don't hesitate to share them with us.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. When I'm researching for my Bible studies I often find interesting sidenotes that would make fascinating lessons on their own. I add an endnote at that point and put the new lesson topic in that endnote. Then, when I finish the lesson or study I'm on, I already have possibilities for the next one and have stayed true to my original topic.

  2. Kathi, that's a great suggestion! Thank you for sharing it with us. Also, if you were writing an article, you could use related material as a sidebar to offer the the editor.