Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Check Off

I was amused to see and read in this week's Times Book Review a review of a book called The Checklist Manifesto, byAtul Gawande. Amused because only the day before I put such a checklist up on the wall by my writing chair.

This to-do list of mine is less detailed than an outline and more specific than an ideas list, and focuses on the scenes I know I need to write. Gawande apparently asserts that simple checklists can help avoid errors in the workplace. That's too much for this writer to hope for, at least with a first draft; still, I use and value them for making small the otherwise huge and daunting task of novel-writing. Each time I sit down to write, a quick glance at what's next on my "Need to do" scene checklist consoles me; the end is attainable.

Since Saturday I've already rearranged the order of scenes on my list, deleted some scenes (and characters) from the story, and added two more. The paper is now a mess of arrows and margin scribbles and thick lines crossing out ideas I once thought were inspired. And yes, there are some nice bold check marks (Done!) across several of the items.

Of course, the scenes are the fun and easy part of story writing; it's the connective tissue that makes the job hard. Still, I believe that a well-done scene should be easy to get into and out of, so the scene by scene approach, especially as I know where I'm headed, seems right for now.



  1. Connective tissue it is! I'm toward the end of another draft of STONER 2 and the scenes are like islands with no bridges to connect them. Lordy! There they sit all alone with characters waving to each other, separated by a great distance.

    If I had hair, I'd tear it out.


  2. Marsha, did you read A.G.'s article in the New Yorker about hospital checklists (which I assume inspired the book)?

    As a fellow list lover, I found it fascinating.

  3. You better be saving that list for Kerlan, Miss Q.

  4. Gawande is the most informed person on the planet when it comes to healthcare reform. Check his New Yorker articles.

  5. Qualey is an expert at arranging scenes. I have about 30 feet of brown paper to attest to that fact.