Get to the Point

When writing flash nonfiction, as we discussed last week, you do not have the luxury of either time or words. We talked about not going off on tangents, not wasting time on every single detail, and avoiding backstory overkill. But how do you do that, exactly? How can you narrow your focus in such a way that you don’t head off down the wrong path?

One technique is to pick one point in time to write about. By centering your narrative on one specific moment, you limit the directions your story can take. You can concentrate on that one feeling, setting or action, and the details you build in will have to be directly connected to that particular moment. As you write, you’ll have a better idea of when you’re straying if you start with the focal point front and center.

To put it another way, if you start off unfocused, you won’t know when you’ve conveyed your message. It’s the difference between writing generally about summers on your grandparents’ farm or the summer you watched a cow give birth on your grandparents’ farm.

{Editor’s note: I don’t know anything about farms. I don’t know if cows give birth in summer or if they are on a seasonal schedule (that’s a thing with some animals, right?). It’s just an example and you get the point. But if you write a story, make sure your details line up in a factual way to avoid looking foolish. I’m beyond the point of looking foolish.} [Ed’s secondary note: Cows do what they want, or at least ours did. You try for spring and take what you can get. /rbg]

Nonfiction Know-How:

Journal to Essay

“It’s not a journal entry, it’s a personal essay.” That’s something we say a lot when we’re making edits. Also this: “Your essay needs to be more than a list of events interspersed with your feels.” What’s the difference, really, though? And why does it matter? For this month’s Nonfiction Know-How, we’ll use some of those constructive criticism tips on our own writing, and look at how to go from journal entry to personal essay. The best part? You get to save your darlings. Learn more from Rowan here.*

*Check out our writing help section on Thursday to find out what we’ll be diving into in June for our Nonfiction Know-How segment.

How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:

Basic YeahWrite guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.

1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry;
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid;
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message;
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge; and
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog.

Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.

Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…

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About the author:

Michelle submitted her first entry to YeahWrite in March 2012 and they haven’t been able to get rid of her since. After nearly 20 years in the insurance/employee benefits industry, she decided to give it all up to pursue writing full time. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post and xoJane, as well as several local sites near her northern NJ home. She blogs at Michelle Longo.

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