You can write a narrative all the way to the end and still not be able to say what it is about. Uh-oh. Learn how to capture the essence of a story in a few clear sentences. That analysis becomes a North Star for your character and plot development. It is your way into drafting or revising a story, and it's your way into convincing someone they really should read it.
- articulate the subject and idea of your story.
- make an umbrella statement of the action and its impact.
- describe the vision and the world of the story.
- say how your protagonist proves your concept of the story world.
Recommended reading: The Last Draft: A Novelist's Guide to Revision and The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer
Sandra Scofield is the author of seven novels, including a finalist for the National Book Award; two memoirs, Occasions of Sin and Mysteries of Love and Grief; two books on craft--recently The Last Draft: A Novelist's Guide to Revision--and recent fiction, Swim: Stories of the Sixties. She is on the faculty of the Solstice MFA Program and the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She is also a painter.
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Reviews of The Last Draft
“Drawing deeply on her own teaching and writing and using a multitude of examples from classic and contemporary fiction, [Scofield] offers a meticulous guide to revising a novel... The lasting messages of this inspiring book are 'read, read, read,' 'write the best prose you can,' and 'love the process and what you learn.'"
-- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This title stands out from the crowd of others on the subject. For readers who are thinking about publishing their writing."
-- Library Journal, starred review
“An award-winning fiction writer and teacher shares hard-won advice. Novelist and memoirist Scofield…brings her experience as a writer and teacher to a practical, encouraging manual focused on revision. … Patience and commitment, this useful guide reveals, are a writer's strongest assets.”
-- Kirkus Reviews
“Sandra Scofield has written a needed book: not how to begin a novel, but how to get one into shape and on point. She is insightful on the importance of scene and ingenious on the value of summary and the role of interiority. She offers exercises for describing, evaluating, energizing, and enriching a draft in ways both minute and structural. For a novelist in that perplexing stage between a messy version and a viable manuscript, The Last Draft may be a godsend.”
—Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction
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