I am usually teaching when I am not writing, so I am a list maker. Teachers make lists. We have rosters, attendance, lists of parents who are bringing stuff for parties, lists of kids who haven’t brought in picture money, lists of kids who are carpooling with friends just this week—you name it. I am lost without my lists. Lists get me through my day.
They also get me through my writing. I make lists of characters I want to use, even if I don’t have stories to use them in yet. I make lists of deadlines, lists of chapters, lists of cool names I want to use, lists of bibliographic entries I need to include (that’s for the nonfiction, of course), plot lists, lists of dates, and sometimes grocery lists when I realize while writing that I forgot to pick up toilet paper again.
Today’s Writing Exercise:
Writing a list can help you solve your biggest writing problem. A simple list helps you write about a writing problem instead of having to slog through it. Review a work that’s giving you a problem right now. Maybe it’s a mystery that’s not coming together well. Maybe it’s a piece of dialogue in a story that seems stiff and awkward. Maybe it’s a group of facts that are necessary but dry, or a plot that’s just too complicated. Write down your problem, whatever it is, and then brainstorm a list of ten ways to solve it. Try the top three ways—you may not even get to the third try before the problem is solved.