Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Making a List--and Checking it Twice!

The last few weeks have been incredibly hectic as I prepare Overtaken for publication.  Each time I bring a book to this last stage of the journey I'm reminded how very difficult the work really is.  Checking for word repetition, making sure the timeline is consistent, assuring myself that I really have gone as far as I can go with the editing--it's a lot to do.  And if I didn't have a series of lists to follow, I shudder to think how far behind I'd be right now.

I love writing lists.  As you've probably noticed by now, most of my blog posts are comprised of, or include, one or more lists somewhere in the text.  I think it's the organization I find so compelling, my brain just seems to thrive on list-making.  It's also about the only way I can multi-task.  Keeping lists close by can remind me where I am in my manuscript, how many times my heroine has worn a pink dress, and what kind of pictures I want to feature in my book trailer.

That said, I also have to admit "to do" lists are my least favorite.  I often find myself abandoning them halfway through, that is if I even get that far.  A much better system for me is to make a "have done" list, especially as a journaling theme.  The other kinds of lists I enjoy making are ones I can refer to many times over and that can even be expanded.  For instance:
  • Repetitive word lists--things to avoid, e.g., buzz words such as "just," "only," "nice."
  • Synonyms:  how can I take my buzz words to a new level?
  • Interesting, active verbs:  same as above.
  • Interesting scenes to write.
  • Tips and checklists for making a scene "work."
  • Character names:  the more variety, the better.
  • Unusual professions--go for the weird.
  • Little known locations, cultures, and customs.
  • Colors, e.g. rather than green, how about "spinach"?
  • Future book titles.  Nothing like being prepared!
  • Rare phobias.
  • Rare health disorders.
  • Interesting hobbies.
  • Unusual character goals.
  • Bizarre opening lines.
  • Little known facts/trivia.
  • Strange items/objects.
  • Ideas to write, paint, or collage.
  • Lines of poetry--my own, to add to a future piece of work.
  • Lines of poetry from others, to act as prompts, themes, idea starters.
  • Unusual animals and their habitats. (Naked mole rats, anyone?)
  • Food--past, present, and future.
  • Memories.
  • Dreams.
  • Things to learn more about.
Whew.  And that's just the beginning.  The best way I've found to keep all these lists in order is to have a special journal or notebook just for list making.  Not only is it a great way to "keep writing" on the "blah" days, the finished product can also be one of the most useful reference books on your writing shelf.

Tip of the Day:  Create some lists of your own, perhaps using some of the ideas I've suggested here.  The next time you're stuck for a freewriting prompt, choose one item each from at least three lists, e.g., a character name, a strange profession, and a bizarre opening line.  Put them all together, and presto--it's story time!

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