Me and My Lists
I'm most definitely a list person. There's nothing I like more than ticking off a list or striking a line through something that's been done. After getting fed up of finding random pieces of paper on which, to him, were a series of unrelated words, my husband found the ideal book for me.
Mrs Hinch -The Little Book of Lists is listed as a best seller on Amazon so it makes me think that maybe I'm not alone in relying on lists. Each week and in one place, I can list what to buy, when to post birthday cards, keep track of dates of appointments, and when to meet someone. So could this little book help me with my writing?
I read somewhere that finding a shopping list could be a great way into writing a story. Who does the list belong to? Can you tell from the items on the list the lifestyle of that person? How many others are in the family or do they live alone? Does the person have any pets? Have any of you tried this?
When I was still at the querying stage and received a rejection for my novel, I would highlight all the positive comments in one colour to give me the motivation to carry on submitting and the suggestions for improvement and why the manuscript wasn't accepted in another. I would then list all the ideas I agreed with and enjoy ticking them off one by one as each was addressed. It must have worked because I was thrilled when my debut novel, My Mother's Secret was published by Ruby Fiction as part of a three-book contract.
When starting a new novel, I list my characters and where they may fit in the story. What are they like in appearance, what are their personalities, do they have any particular traits, what are their backstories? The list of questions is endless. (See what I did there.) In that way, I get to know my characters really well from the outset.
Perhaps the main use of lists for me in the writing process is in editing. Before submitting to my publisher, I spend considerable time self-editing and polishing the novel until it is as good as I can make it myself. First, I start with a complete read-through to see if the story flows without any plot holes, noting anything I find in the form of a list to refer back to and hopefully tick off. I do this on my Kindle and make notes as I read. Next, I ask myself a series of questions including these important ones:
- does that scene move the story on?
- does the reader need to know that?
- is there anything that was set up in the novel that was not resolved by the end of the story?
When it comes to line editing where I try to sharpen and tighten the writing, that is where lists come into their own. I look at whether I could have used a better word, expression, or sentence. Everyone is guilty of repetition; I certainly am. In novel four, my characters 'beamed' a lot and 'hearts raced' too many times. By making lists of the words I overuse and other 'weak' words, I was able to use the 'Find and Replace' function on Word and hopefully improve my writing. Often, I needed more dialogue rather than reported speech which slowed the pace and to get inside the characters' heads to know what they were feeling.
I submitted novel four with its working title, A Tale of Two Sisters, last week after I'd done as thorough an edit as I could. If the publisher likes it, I will then receive edits from my editor and work through those in the same methodical way that works best for me using lists. I'm really hoping I can share Claudia and Giulietta's story with you.
Thank you for reading. Are you a list person like me? If you're a writer, do you find lists help you when writing, and at what stage? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
For more about me and my writing, please go to my AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE. Thank you.