The older I get, the more I see the value in making lists. I swear that’s because I have so much crammed in my brain that it’s hard to keep everything straight unless I write things down. My friends just smile and nod.
Anyway, here’s my list of tips for properly creating lists.
- First, make sure your list is an organized list. That means you don’t co-mingle your short-story list with your article list with your novel list with your non-fiction book list, etc.
- Next, use your lists to get an overview of tasks that build on one another. Doing so keeps backtracking and undoing what’s already been done to a minimum.
- Next, figure out what goes together on your list, then group like things into categories and subcategories. For example, you may have a primary character category, a supporting character category, and a if-I-can-fit-this-character-in category.
- If your project is large (such as a novel), put different categories (scenes, characters, etc.) on different pages so you have plenty of room to add more or comment on what’s there.
- Finally, remember that lists are tools, not sacred texts. You can change them, add to them, take away from them, whatever you need to do to make them functional for you.
One published author I know (royalty-published many times, if that’s important for you to know), creates a spiral notebook for every novel he writes. Why a spiral notebook? It’s portable and never gets a low-battery warning. Anyway, his lists include scene ideas, character quotes/dialogue/descriptions, plot lines, chapter outlines, deadlines, etc. He uses what he can and saves the rest for another work.
Think about your writing projects, then imagine if they’d flow a little easier if you worked from lists. It may be worth a try.