In woodworking, a jig is a device that, most often, you create yourself to assist in the work. Think of it as an extra hand or two, or twelve, that give you the freedom to work safely and accurately. It might be a hold down to keep work steady while you cut, or a bracing device to keep work in alignment while you drill. Writers use jigs, too, I think. I know I do anyway, and one of my favorites is the cut list.
A cut list is what it sounds like. A list of the pieces you need to cut for whichever project you’re working on. It’s a pretty intuitive idea when you think about it, right? Still took me at least four woodworking projects before I hit upon the notion of marking down each piece I needed, whether it had been cut, dimensioned, milled for fasteners, or finish sanded.
— Duolit SelfPub Team (@duolit) November 26, 2012
Cut lists – they’re everwhere
If you look around at different projects, professions, what have you, I’m sure you’ll find other examples of cut lists. One of my favorites, which I employ every time I set foot in the kitchen, is the chef’s practice of mise en place.
It means to put things in place so you’re ready to work. For procedures like woodworking, writing, cooking, crafting of any kind really, the process benefits from a cut list because of the freedom it allows the crafter. Without a cut list holding all the information about measurements, sanding versus planing, dimensioned or not…the woodworker’s brain gets to focus on things like, well, table saw safety for one.
For writing, a cut list lets me focus on precious writing hours on important tasks, like finishing this critical scene where the protagonist hurtles past the point of no return. Instead of worrying if I’ve got all the necessary elements for a good scene, I spend some time imagining the scene playing itself out in my mind. Then I mark down short notes:
- Point A – scene opens, where, what time of day
- Who is involved – characters and cues: when do they first appear in the scene
- Do any major transition points occur during the scene? If so, who is involved, cues again
- Any lines of dialogue that suggest themselves to me as I’m envisioning the scene
- Point B – scene ends, where, what time of day
Do you write with a cut list? If you’ve got a favorite tip from another writer/blogger, please share in the comments. Thanks!