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What To-Do?


Advice Blog 1 Mar 22 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings. In the 1 Feb 22 issue Advice Blog, I discussed outlining and revising your story in preparation for using a checklist of to-do actions to finish it up. In this issue of our advice blog, we’ll take up the construction of a to-do list.


Let’s get started with the definition of to-do list: a list of steps that need to be done; in writing, a list of steps that need to be finished before the piece of writing is complete in part or in whole. Such a list could be broken down into smaller lists. Thus, a section completion might depend on a to-do list for that section. A to-do list could be regulated by time: One could have a to-do list of actions to be done in a day, a week, an hour, before lunch and so forth. When completed, any of these lists would signal a job done.

How does one construct a to-do list? In the haphazard method, one would list out the actions as one thought of them without any sense as to their priority or importance. If one stopped there with her or his to-do list, she or he probably would have a list of actions, the completion of which would likely not end up in any rational completion ‒ more work would be needed.

I’ll create a fiction example to show what I mean. What we will want to complete is a plot outline. Imagine that each item contains the preface “Make sure that.” Here we go haphazardly. List: conflict and tension is on every page; action is immediate; action is meaningful; plot includes large scale; action is surprising; problems presented are not easily resolved; situations happen to character for whom readers feel empathy or sympathy; in addition to conflict, the story includes complications, crisis, climax and resolution; plot is layered; opening line conflict bridges to where central conflict is set; tension conflicts with ideals or values; twists, reversals and danger are integrated; any red herrings are well planted; surprises lead to suspense; foreshadowing danger fulfills need in plot development; reveals are slow to come; climax is unexpected and inevitable; plot threads come together seamlessly; any backstory comes later in the story.

I’ve just completed a haphazard to-do list for an outline. It comprises 20 parts in whatever order. Let’s change it into a prioritized list starting with what I consider to be the most important element. Preface each task with “Make sure that.” List: situations happen to character for whom readers feel empathy or sympathy; climax is unexpected and inevitable; conflict and tension is on every page; in addition to conflict, the story includes complications, crisis, climax and resolution; problems presented are not easily resolved; tension conflicts with ideals or values; plot is layered; plot includes large scale; action is immediate; action is meaningful; action is surprising; foreshadowing danger fulfills need in plot development; opening line conflict bridges to where central conflict is set; twists, reversals and danger are integrated; reveals are slow to come; any red herrings are well planted; surprises lead to suspense; plot threads come together seamlessly; any backstory comes later in the story.

Now we have a plot outline list with some order. You might arrange the items on the list a bit differently, but you get the idea. A to-do list for revision would be differently ordered. If you wish, take a stab at a revision to-do list. You don’t need to stick with plot; use whatever story element you wish. They are premise, structure, narrative question, setting, character(s), cast contrasts (for multiple important characters), plot; subplots; voice and writing style, stakes, pace or ending,


In the next issue of our Advice Blog, we’ll take up persistence, particularly on any writing such as fiction, non-fiction, memoirs and blogs.


Note: The book of short speculative fiction "Eve of Valor: 25 Tales" is available on Amazon. Click here.



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