Take a Little More Time: Identify Your Personal "Misses"
Identify your personal misses. Every writer has a style, and within that style are your own personal errors that you keep doing over and over. I have a list of all the things I want to write that I know I always have to go back and check and change. This book, "The Checklist Manifesto", is, oh, someone's read it, it's fantastic. So, checklists offer us a lot. There's no downside to creating a checklist for this process. It externalizes it. You get to save brain power. It makes these checks routine and it makes them easy. It saves time, and one of my favorites is it helps instill discipline. So if you've got a checklist built, and, say, it's your "I've completed my first draft" checklist, you get into the habit of checking this right away, and then you can have a pre-production checklist. It's been through review. You've seen the editor and the proofreader. You're getting ready to send it off to the agent or the journal. Wait, we need the pre-production checklist. Creating these checkli...
sts establishes routine and discipline in your process. Now, when you're making your checklist, keep it simple, keep it easy, and keep it updated. Updated is the one that's really easy to forget. Once we build it, it feels done, but we're always learning as writers and as editors, and our checklist needs to reflect this new information. Further, as we keep developing, we'll have new errors that we start to make, things we're all of a sudden doing and that we weren't doing before. So, wherever your checklist is, make sure you update it regularly. I like to do mine once a month just because I have it some place visible, and it's easier to make it just like a monthly checklist. a monthly part of my routine. If you note something more than once, write it down. So you find that you made the same error, you put two dangling modifiers in this piece, write it down. You've gone and checked your writing, watch for these dangling modifiers. You caught the compliment-complement in your writing; write it down. And then store it some place accessible so you can use it. A checklist doesn't do any good if it's in a drawer that you don't ever open. You have to make sure it's visible. I actually have multiple checklists, and the one I use most often, I just put a quick laminate on it, and I dry-erase check it. I use this checklist every other day when I'm turning in articles, and it's like "Is this done? This done? This done?" Re-do. Basically, it's a tool, and you need to make sure that it's usable in a way that's successful for you. Once you've built this checklist of your personal misses, you'll be able to sit down when it's time to proofread, and you've got three-fourths of the work right there in front of you. You've already done the heavy lifting, so every time you proofread from there on out, it's that much easier and you have that much more success because then these things, they're externalized. You'll see different errors with fresh eyes. Has anyone tried building a checklist of their own errors and things they like working on? Okay, try it. If you try it, I want to hear from you guys and see how it went.