Some people are born list makers and some definitively are not. I fall somewhere in between.
I like to make a list then buck it; or avoid making a list, thinking I can keep this, that and everything else in my head.
The truth of the matter is there are some instances in which making a bonafide list is truly necessary.
Otherwise I go into the grocery store for lemons, milk, asparagus, dill, and artichokes, and I come out with ice cream, cookies, potato chips, and baking soda. Then we have no vegetable side dish for dinner.
In the case of working on my manuscript, I found, I had a good editing list “in my head,” but I wasn’t doing the editing. It became daunting knowing I had to look for, and keep in mind this variety of “to dos” as I read through the manuscript. So what I actually ended up doing was nitpick editing the first 20-30 pages over and over again, getting hung up on a comma or a sentence, or a preposition. Then let two weeks go by, until I hit my writing group again and could sit there for three hours and look at the same 20-30 pages over again.
So, when I was at writing group yesterday, this suddenly dawned on me. I mean, it wasn’t really a new concept. I had been vaguely aware that I was preventing myself from doing the real work that needed doing for a while, but I saw an honest to goodness bluebird out the window, which set me dreaming about the edges of things, because they live in edge forests by open fields. The next thing I knew, I realized, I had been on the edge of my manuscript for months now.
So, yes, I KNEW what I needed to do, and it was plenty the more I mulled it, so I decided to write it down.
First I wrote down the chapter headings, made a list of all the chapters, like a table of contents without the page numbers. While I was doing that, it occurred to me that I could combine a couple of these short chapters into one in a few places, which would simplify a lot, really.
Then I made a list at the bottom of that which looks like this:
~continue to edit Joe out/Mike into Thanksgiving and Observatory scenes
~write observatory scene using A.H.’s notes
~pay attention to name changes for T.B. and T.N.
~characterize supporting characters more through action and physical description
~make ‘thought bubbles’ action scenes or move them to more fitting scene
~edit down cooking relevance
~more on comets
While it still covers a lot of tasks, some quite involved, to see them written down is so much less confungulating (hybrid of confusing and confounding and frustrating my non-writer Honey came up with, which I love!) than when I was trying to keep them in my mind.
This way I can separate out the tasks and work on them, one at a time, and maybe fix a few of those name changes along the way.
What a concept! And to think I used to counsel my tutorial students to do exactly the same thing in organizing their much shorter papers.
Crossposted from musings in mayhem