It’s that stress-me-out time of the year. My calendar begins to fill with all the obligations of the season. There’s the family Thanksgiving dinner, black Friday planning, black Friday shopping, my brother-in-laws’s annual merry unbirthday party, the sisters dinner, the company holiday luncheons, ornament exchange at church, and the list goes on. Each of these events requires food, so I will sit down with my calendar, my coupons, my holiday shopping-and-planning-notebook and begin to make my grocery list.
Start with the basics. For example, I’m making the dressing for Thanksgiving. So here’s what I’ll need: corn bread mix, onions, eggs, chicken broth, seasonings, celery, a roasting pan, and foil.
Once I have the basic list, I sort through my coupons to see what matches and begin to revise the list to correspond with my coupons. I have 25 cents off on 3 packages of corn bread mix, 75 cents off one container of seasonings, 50 cents off eggs, two coupons for discounts on broth, 25 cents off on foil, and one for the disposable storage bowls I left off my basic list.
The list is further edited by brand, size, quantity, expiration date, and limitations. The final list looks something like this.
6 15 oz cans Swanson’s low sodium chicken broth 50 cents off on 3 can purchase
6 packages Martha White’s yellow corn bread mix on sale 3 packages for $1.25; one 25 cents off on 3 packages.
1 dozen large grade A Eggland’s Best eggs 50 cents off coupon
1 McCormick poultry seasoning ,65 oz bottle. 75 cents off
1 rolls Reynolds aluminum foil 50 foot roll or larger 25 cents off
2 packages of 2 cup Ziplock storage bowls 3 to a package $1.00 off
1 container diced onions in the refrigerator case
1 container diced celery
Now I have a detailed list I could give to my nephews along with the cash, and they could battle the crowd at the store. So what does this mean for a writer?
I make a basic list regarding the characters and storyline for a novel. On a first draft of my novel, I have basic ideas of my characters, setting, time of year and so on. As the story develops, the details emerge and the characters become more alive and the settings are more vivid. I update the list as I go. By the time I’m on the final edit, all the details are filled in and an agent or editor will have the necessary details to present and promote my project.
Getting the details right takes time and effort. It also requires being open to change as the story develops. Making notes of the progress helps prevent errors like the hero has blue eyes in chapter two and brown eyes in chapter ten.
I also use lists to spark creativity. There are some days when the muse is not with me, so I make my grocery list. Instead of green beans, I refine the item to Green Giant French cut green beans. Olives become large, jalapeño-stuffed Spanish olives. Ground beef is lean ground sirloin 90/10. After a few minutes working this exercise, I find my inspiration and get back to writing my novel.