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.
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:
- 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. 😊
2 thoughts on “The List: Every Writer’s Friend”
Good advice. We need to keep things straight. And, speaking of Hemingway: I’m reading To Have And Have Not now. It’s plenty gritty.
Good book – I’ve always loved Hemingway.
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