The List: Every Writer’s Friend

You’re writing a book.  You’re loving it.  It’s great.  Hemingway would pat you on the back.  Christie would applaud your twists and turns.  . . . Your readers are scratching their heads.  When/how did Monty’s wife, Judith, become Barbara?  Cara was living in a flat in Chelsea.  How’d she end up in Greenwich?

Accuracy and consistency are important.  Both lend themselves to professionalism, something every writer—aspiring or published—should embrace.  There’s nothing more off-putting than reading something and finding it filled with irregularities . . . also known as glaring mistakes.

You want people to remember you and your work—for the right reasons.

I believe in lists and summaries.  But that’s so much more work!  I hear the groans.  Yes, it is, yet not really.  If you set up a chart, you only need add a few words here and there.  In that chart, you list points, ideas, descriptions.

1clipartlibrary (1)Having a list for characters—in my humble opinion—is necessary.  Note each one’s name (!), appearance, traits, idiosyncrasies, and significant events that made them what they are.  A quick example:

 JOHN SMITH

    • pale blue eyes, wavey blond hair below the ears, chubby at 5’7”
    • 38 years old; born in London; parents dead (mother hit by car when he was 10; father died from colon cancer)
    • likes dogs, hates cats (with a passion)
    • is a teacher by day, killer by night . . .

You get the idea.  The same holds true for a summary.  Have a list that breaks down chapters into scenes and note what happens.  It will help not have David finding Jessie’s body in a well in Chapter 3 and then finding Jessie’s body in a cellar in Chapter 10.  😉

Again, the summary / chapter list can be quite simple, a few words here and there.  Something like this works:

CHAPTER 4, SCENE 3    October, Thursday 10:30 a.m. – breezy and cloudy / Jeremy meets with Lester at a beachside bar; they theorize about the murder (how did the body end up in the cave / what is the significance of the star etched into the victim’s forehead / why can’t they determine the identity of the victim).

A summary / chapter list will help you see how your plot and book have progressed.  It will be simpler to determine if something is missing or seems incomplete.

Holes in a garment can be fixed; holes in a published book not so much.  A list for a writer can prove your best friend.  It won’t let you down.  😊

Judy Hogan Writes

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