To List or Not to List

Lots of people need to-do lists.  I do.

Laundry. Check.

Groceries. Check.

Vacuuming. Check.

Fueling the car. Check.

Bank account. Check.

Email. Check.

There is something relieving with to-do lists.

Check. Done.

Most are a little down-to-earth, right?

Even writers’ to-do lists are tedious.

Make sure my main character is a good balance of flaws and strengths.

Check on my secondary characters so they don’t overcome my protagonist.

Brainstorm tertiary characters to provide more suspense or excitement through the story.

Use lots of sensory details, including all five senses, to stimulate emotions.

Write dialogues that echo the characters’ personalities and show actions instead of telling too much through the narrative.

Choose a distinct setting that fits the plot and intrigues the reader.

And for all means, keep the voice steady throughout the story.  This one is so hard I write it at the end of the list while it bugs me much more than the other components of the list.

A writer’s to-do list is by far the longest and the most demanding of all lists.

The worse part is that it is a list that never exactly provides the relief of a plain old list.

Remains the writer’s worry: did I really need a list?

But something l read last night reassured me.

One of the members of my critique group is writing a biography.

I’m a die-hard fiction reader and writer. I know, I know, I should read every genre. I love poetry too – although I don’t write any in English.

So to enlighten my shabby knowledge of nonfiction children’s literature, I read Charles and Emma The Darwins’ Leap of Faith from Deborah Heiligman.

This book got so much praise and awards that the author must have written a list to remember them all.

And guess what I found?

Charles Darwin wrote lists too!

He even made a list of pros and cons when he considered marriage.

To Marry or Not to Marry.

Very Shakespearian approach. Darwin didn’t even have someone special in mind when he wrote his list.

He began with lots of cons under Not to Marry. He ended up with fewer pros under To Marry.

And yet he married Emma Wedgewood.

It is said that, “In her presence he found his happiness, and through her, his life.”

So when to do listdarwinsomeone makes fun of your writer’s list – long or short – just smile and remember Darwin.

Or say, “Some lists are worth every single word.”

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