Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Topic

As I write this, Hubby is watching the Sprint Cup STP 400. (This is not a picture of that race, but it's a racetrack.)  He has always been a fan of NASCAR and huge fan of cars in general. We have model cars all over the house: stashed in closets, stored in the garage, and even hidden in the rafters. I know if Hubby had the money we'd have a huge garage somewhere full of muscle cars.

I think what he likes about race cars is that he knows when he sits down to watch a race the car that goes around the track the fastest and is in front of the pack when the race is over is the winner. It's pretty simple to understand. Cars that crash or have other troubles lose. The track is crucial in this sport. It's the pathway to victory and the only way to win. The pathway to concise writing, however, isn't quite so clear.

Sometimes topics can become lost or drive off the track. For instance, look at this sentence.

And therefore, for those who love cars, in the Southern states, since they were kids, NASCAR is the ultimate in racing.

The topic is "NASCAR is the ultimate in racing," but it is buried behind three other topics: those who love cars, the South, and since they were kids. Readers like clear topics. Those topics are usually the subject or "player" of the sentence. Here's a clear sentence.

NASCAR is the ultimate in racing especially for those who live in the South and have followed the sport since they were kids.

The topic is front and center. Sentences following can develop other aspects of the topic by delving into why the sport is so popular in the south and how even the very young love racing.

Most readers struggle with long convoluted sentences. They are anxious to find the topic and learn more about it. They want to follow a clear pathway. The goal of a writer is to keep the topic on the racetrack so the reader has an enjoyable time. If the topic becomes hidden and drives off the track, the reader will get lost and the writer will lose them.

Does this mean you have to write boring sentences? Of course, not. But it does mean your sentences need to relate and flow naturally.

Clear sentences may seem too simple for some writers, but a more simple sentence structure will help a story finish on a checkered flag and win over readers.

Okay, so where did I go off track? What's a good rule you use in writing to keep your sentences focused and your topic clear?



  1. Stopping by from the A-Z Challenge. Great post. I get so annoyed with sentences that are written "backwards" in books. I'll definitely go through my WIP and check for clear sentences.

    1. Daisy,
      I know what you mean. And after I wrote this I worried about how many times I've done it and haven't caught the mistake. :\ Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Returning the visit, thanks for stopping by on A to Z :)

    Good post. I definitely struggle with thought organization. It's not unusual for me to write a sentence twelve times on my *First* draft, just because I need it to make sense to me.

    Of course, I am dyslexic, and sequence is one of my biggest obstacles both to writing and reading comprehension. I may never make it through a badly worded sentence someone else wrote. It's entirely too frustrating :)

    1. Amalie,
      I rewrite sentences a lot. And I'm not dyslexic, however, I have occasional writers blindness. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. After I finish a story or an article, I go through it again and see if I can break sentences with multiple clauses up into separate sentences. Then I read through the new piece. If a sentence throws me off the track, I get rid of it. If a sentence adds nothing to the piece, I get rid of it. It's been a good exercise, particularly with things that I wrote years ago. I had a tendency to overexplain and use ten words where one would do. I'm getting over it.

    Anyway, just stopping by as I make my way through the AtoZ blogs.


    1. John,
      Great advice! I try to do this as well. You're not alone in over-explaining at times. Thanks for stopping by.



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