I’ve got a friend whose story is so all over the place she’s ready to throw it in the trash. She says “I’m just so sick of it I just want to get it done and not have to think about it anymore.” Do you ever find yourself thinking the same thing? Sometimes this is because you’re trying to do too much, and there’s no theme or focus. At http://writerunboxed.com/2009/12/22/untangling-story-knots-in-six-steps/ Therese Walsh offers a strategy for helping you machete your way through it.
You might also ask yourself, “What am I trying to say? What is this story about?” In his wonderful book, “Save the Cat” (on screenwriting, but very applicable to a novel as well), Blake Snyder helps you focus your novel by perfecting your logline, or one-line. Once you know where you’re going, the next question is “how?” Sometimes we just start writing because we think it would be interesting, but to whom, and why?
Snyder also suggested you pretend your book’s been made into a movie (what a fabulous daydream, huh?) Now imagine a group of friends sitting around on a Saturday night debating which new movie to see, and yours comes up. What do they say about it? “It’s about a guy who…” Try it with your story. Can you do it? Does your one-line sound interesting enough to make anybody want to see your movie (read your book)? If you can create a good one-line, you’ll bring focus to your story. You’ll be able to figure out what scenes, characters, and plot twists support that focus, and what should be discarded as crapola.