The Novel-List (Another Brain Hack)

Another week, and another almost-week of stalling in my novel. I went without writing in it for a month, kept away by illness and real life issues, and just flat not feeling like “writing.” Meanwhile, I kept staring at my to-do list, which did admittedly get smaller and smaller as the week went on.

What was wrong with me? I wondered. How am I able to get all this real-life stuff accomplished, but can’t be bothered to open a simple file and edit anything?

THEN…then I took a look at my to-do list, and had an epiphany.

My To-Do List: Before

just a sample to-do list, but it illustrates my point

Everything else I had written out to do was specific–for instance, on “Monday”, it says to write a post about HTML5 and clean off bathroom countertops, and on Wednesday, it says to make notes on the Sunday School lesson for the week and mop the kitchen floor.

But for my novel? All it said was the vague instruction of “write 1,000 words”. No other clues, no real indication as to where the story was to go next…NOTHING.

I had gone to the trouble of writing in time to novel on my to-do list, but I had not made it a specific goal. Nor had I left myself any clues or seeds of ideas to build off of. Therefore, I was continually baffled as to what to do next, making it harder and harder to write.

So, instead of making a detailed entry in my everyday to-do list, I made out a whole new to-do list, just for my novel.

My Separate Novel-List

generic sample novel-list because the actual plot is under wraps 😛

This is an example of the specific to-do list I’m talking about. With this, you’re making an outline of your book before you write it, kind of like our teachers wanted us to write outlines before we wrote our papers in school (and we wrote the outlines after writing the paper, right? *wink*).

With my specific to-do list, I’ve mapped out exactly where the story is supposed to go, almost like a diary entry of each “day” in the novel. And I’ve already been able to go a little further ahead in my story, where I had been stuck for a month before. Even though I still may get stuck, and it still may be slow going, at least I’ll be going!


If you’re currently working on any creative project, and you know where you’d LIKE it to go but can’t seem to get inspiration, try a to-do list like this, mapping out the way for yourself. Seeing it all planned out visually, like an itinerary for your project, may just spur you on!

2 thoughts on “The Novel-List (Another Brain Hack)”

  1. Yeah, I used to hate doing outlines for school papers–the “to-do list” somehow works much better for me. Yay, brain hacks!

    Thank you for commenting! 😀

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