In a recent post, John Fox, of the BookFox blog, wrote about the challenges of self-editing. His very first bit of advice is to isolate the various elements of your manuscript and address each one in turn. In other words, do a pass looking only at your dialogue. Then do another where you only worry about diction. I have found this to be a very effective method for editing. The only trouble is that it’s easy to get distracted.
Often, I’ll be working on dialogue and realize that I forgot to describe the setting, or that when I cut another scene I lost the introduction of a character, or that I dropped a thematic element in the middle of the story. I want to stay focused on dialogue, but I don’t want to forget to come back.
Enter the Writing Punch List
The solution is the Writing Punch List. When I was working for the PR company, we used to keep a punch list for every project. It was a list of things that needed to be addressed before final payment. It was where we noted anything and everything that needed doing so we wouldn’t forget, and it has served me well in my writing as well.
My Writing Punch List is just a piece of paper I keep in my desk drawer. Every time I think of something that needs doing, no matter how trivial, it gets noted. Here are some examples:
- Make sure Tallulah is still injured in scene thirteen
- Describe mom better
- Review for dialogue
- Check days of the week
- Make sure she’s still wearing the orange shirt in scene five
Having a Writing Punch List allows me to focus. It brings a method to the madness of writing and allows me to relax into whatever task I’m focusing on, knowing that everything will be addressed in its own time.