24 February 2010


Writing Diary Entry #15

It would be nice to be one of those Writer Bloggers (Yes, it sounds redundant, but it isn't) who can post a whole list of useful writing tips whenever she publishes something . . . but obviously, that's not my niche.

Yet I have a few tricks up my sleeve that seem worth sharing, such as:

When in doubt,
make a Top 5 List.

Indeed, you don't even have to wait until you find yourself in doubt. The Top 5 List is a great writing tool.

Yet I never actually used it for anything more than my own amusement until last month, when my Fully Booked Zine editor gave me a week to write about "remarkable women in literature."

Ah, that should have been easy: I graduated from an all-girls high school, where I had a very memorable Anglo-American Lit teacher who made Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott and two Bronte sisters (Guess which ones!) required reading. (She threw in some Nathaniel Hawthorne, too, for equality between the sexes and all that.)

It was a year-long course on "remarkable women in literature," at the end of which I received accolades for having written the best essay in the class--and thanks to that experience, I think I could have written my new assignment in my sleep.

Which was precisely what I was afraid of. Who wants to be ten years removed from high school and still rewriting the same essay?

So I took my teacher's original Top 5 List of Elizabeth Bennett, Jo March, Jane Eyre, Hester Prynne, and Cathy Earnshaw (Did you guess correctly?)--and gave it a new twist . . .

I kept Jo March and Jane Eyre, but swapped Elizabeth Bennett for Fanny Price. (This was partly because I had just finished reading Mansfield Park and partly because I wanted "remarkable women" whom the reader first meets while they are still little girls.) Then I threw in Anne Shirley, because I really, really like her . . . and spent three days stuck without a fifth.

None of the other usual heroines seemed right; they all just threw the list off balance. I knew I didn't want to have all five "remarkable women" coming from the nineteenth century, but choosing one heroine, first met as a girl, to stand up for the entire twentieth century kept me completely bogged down.

So . . . Lucy Honeychurch? . . . Too grown up already . . . Ramona Quimby? . . . Never grows up at all . . . Esther Greenwood? . . . Hardly inspiring . . . Connie Escobar? . . . Downright horrifying! . . . Mary Lennox? . . . Still has that nineteenth century air. . . Meg Murry? . . . Oh, hey!

Yes, Meg was my fifth. It took so long to find her, however, that I had to pull an all-nighter to meet my deadline. When the article comes out in print next week, I may be mortified to see the writer I was in high school still peeking out from between the lines.

Now if you want some really worthwhile writing advice, check out The Seven Chimes of Poetry by Meredith of For Keats' Sake.

Image Sources: a) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, b) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen


Cym Lowell said...

Never underestimate the Top 5 List. I have used it many times and will continue to use it!

Great list, BTW.


Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Cym!

Using a candy bar analogy, Top 3 is Fun size, Top 5 is Snack size, and Top 10 is Regular size. I was never really satisfied by Fun size (Since when was less candy more fun???) and don't often need Regular size, but Snack size I can do! =D

There will be an PDF file of Fully Booked Zine available online in about two months, if you also want to read my article. I'll definitely link to it in a future Writing Diary post.

tedleach said...

Candy and "top 3/5/10" lists. Very cool. Thanks for the tip and the analogy.

Enbrethiliel said...


You're welcome, Ted. =) Thanks for visiting my blog!