Linda Maye Adams

Rule M: Make checklists for your story

Pohick Bay with the sun sparkling off the water

One of my details jaunts including going to Pohick Bay in Lorton, VA and writing down smells and sounds.

We’re onto the letter M in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge and on Making checklists for your story.

This is one I’ve been playing around with more recently.  Most of the time when I’ve seen writing checklists from other writers, they cover things I automatically fix without thinking.  Or worse, they’re like what the army used: Pages and pages of pages and pages, to try to cover every possibility.  So I think the checklists are unique to each writer, because we all work differently.

I’m not detail-oriented.  They’re very fleeting for me, vanishing into the bigger picture.  I’ve been working on a scene in a restaurant, and I’ve been having a hard time pulling up the things that happen in a restaurant.  I go in them all the time, and yet, the details aren’t there for me.  Even something simple like sounds is very elusive.

So I’ve been building a checklist of details for places.  I go to a place and sit in it or wander around and write down whatever I see, hear, feel, or smell.  Then, when I’m struggling to pull up details for a scene, I can refer back to the checklist to joggle my memory.

What kind of checklists do you use and why?

Caption: A to Z Challenge Logo


  1. I don’t have a checklist for my story but I do try to make sure to write descriptions of people and what they are wearing and saying, describe the setting, list things I hear, see, smell, and later I would add in things you can touch and taste. One writer’s notebook I have is divided up by the senses so when I want to add something it has a place to go to help me be more organized. This worked but now I need a bigger notebook because I also filled it with other writing.

    Denise at Organization and Inspiration for Fellow Writers, participant of A to Z Blogging Challenge
    Denise Reashore on Facebook


    • Sound seems to be the biggest things I’m taking notes on. For some reason, it’s really hard for me to get sounds into the story.


  2. I’ve never considered a checklist but then, I don’t write much fiction. With the family history stories, I still didn’t do much with details. Sounds like a great idea and something I need to try. Sure would help add color and texture that my stories lack.


    • Family history is also about the places and the time, so adding details about that would get the texture and color you’re looking for.


  3. That is a great idea! I never considered doing that, but I already carry a notebook around with me, why not make use of it. =)


    • It’s still a little hard making the notes. If I’m walking through the woods or something, I have to remind myself to stop and take notes.


  4. I am a massive fan of checklists. I use them throughout the writing process. I have one for chapters (I tick off the first draft to last edits of each chapter completed) I have a checklist for clues (If I want the reader to be able to guess something subtly then I make a checklist for all the things they ought to know and then filter them into the novel.) I could go on and on…


    • One of the things I read about in the book The Checklist Manifesto is that checklists are for the things we forget, or in the case, of a book, to make sure things are done.



  1. Reflections on A to Z Challenge | Linda Adams
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