Structure and writing

19 Jan

CV1_TNY_01_14_13Mattotti.inddJohn McPhee writes an interesting essay in the New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013) about how he creates and uses structure to build long-form non-fiction writing.

College essays are short form, of course, but the idea of structure in telling a good story is worth thinking about when you write anything.  McPhee even knows where his story is going to end before he starts writing.  That may not be every writer’s dream way of working, but think about a passage like this from McPhee, and how it might apply as much to a college essay as it does to one of his 16, 000-word articles:

Almost always there is considerable tension between chronology and theme, and chronology traditionally wins. The narrative wants to move from point to point through time, while topics that have arisen now and again across someone’s life cry out to be collected. They want to draw themselves together in a single body, in the way that salt does underground. But chronology usually dominates. As themes prove inconvenient, you find some way to tuck them in.

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