Start Writing a Book
Before sending your manuscript to an agent or publisher, you obviously want it to be in the most refined state
possible. Because there are so many things to remember when writing, I find it helpful to maintain a
checklist, especially for those last few reviews before sending it out.
The checklist I created follows. It’s a long list, I know. But as I've been told more than once, if writing a novel
was easy, everyone would be doing it. But don't despair, you'll find the more experience you gain, the more of
these things you will do automatically anyway.
For a more in-depth discussion on each of these topics, please refer to other articles on my website, Internet
articles, reference books, and other author websites and blogs. There's a ton of help out there if you look for
- Does the first sentence/paragraph “hook” the reader?
- Has the stage been set – the mood, setting, time period, and tone?
- Does the reader have a good sense of the main character?
- Does action happen fairly soon in the narrative?
- Do the paragraphs transition smoothly from one to another?
- Are there any exceptionally long ones that could be shortened or split into two or more?
- Have you started a new paragraph whenever a new character speaks or when the subject shifts?
- Have you established the setting for each scene?
- Does each scene follow the rules of having a narrative arc (beginning, middle and ending)?
- Does each scene include some level of conflict, even if it’s the protagonist’s internal conflict?
- Is every scene plausible?
- Have you added body language for the characters when the scene requires it?
- Is each scene necessary to the storyline?
- Does each scene start and end at a good point?
- Is there a natural flow and transition from one scene to another?
- Does each chapter start with something that impels the reader to continue?
- Is there a central theme for each chapter?
- Does each chapter end with something that incites the reader to continue to the next chapter?
- Is each character unique?
- Are the characters well-developed?
- Are they three-dimensional?
- Can the readers picture the characters?
- Do the readers know the internal qualities of the main characters?
- Are the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters evident?
- Is the protagonist’s goal(s) clearly defined?
- Is the protagonist sufficiently challenged throughout the book?
- Is there relevant empathy for the protagonist?
- Are relationships between characters well-defined?
- Does the dialogue sound natural? Is there any stilted or “too perfect” dialogue that should be changed?
- Is the dialogue necessary? Does it add to the storyline?
- Have you used dialogue as an information dumping ground? If so, reconsider.
- Does the dialogue help to define the character?
- Is the dialogue consistent with the character?
- Does each character have a distinct voice?
- Have you weaved in physical gestures with the dialogue?
- Have you overused someone’s name in a conversation?
- Are there any lengthy exchanges between characters that should be shortened?
- Have you preceded any dialogue with text that explains what the character is about to say? If so, remove it.
- Are all the he said/she said dialogue tags necessary?
- Is there enough description for the reader to visualize whatever it is you are describing?
- Have you gone overboard with description to the point of boring readers?
- Have you adequately used the five senses to describe things?
- Are you “showing” and not “telling?”
- Is the story credible?
- Are there any plot glitches or holes?
- Have all the issues been resolved?
- Is there too much back story? If so, delete that which isn't necessary to the story line.
- Does the story have a sufficient climax?
- Is there enough conflict to carry the story?
- Did the protagonist change adequately given his/her challenges and conflict?
- Have details been checked for accuracy?
- Does the story line flow smoothly?
- Does the pacing adequately move the story forward?
- Are there any sections of long boring narrative? If so, omit whatever isn't important to the story line.
- Have you allowed moments for the reader to breath between high-action scenes?
- Are there any places where you've delayed the action for too long?
- Within each sentence, are the words in the correct order?
- Have you switched up how each sentence starts by varying the first word from a noun, to a pronoun, to an article, to a verb, etc?
- Have you varied sentence structure within a paragraph or group of paragraphs by mixing in short (even one-word) sentences and
fragments and/or occasionally interrupting the dialogue?
- Are any of the sentences clumsy or awkward to read?
- If you’ve chosen limited POV, have you stuck to the rules? No head hopping allowed.
- Have you included any trite clichés? If so, remove them.
- Have you overused “ly” words? If so, replace them with words that “show, don’t tell.”
- Do any paragraphs include repeated words or phrases? If so, replace them with other words where appropriate.
- Is there a good blend of narration, dialogue and description?
- Are there any weak words that could be replaced with stronger ones?
- Did you leave the reader flat when he reached the last paragraph of the book? If so, revise it.
- Does the reader feel some type of emotion at the end?
- Will the reader be sorry to see the story end? If so, you've done a good job!
SPELLING AND GRAMMAR CHECKING
- Utilizing your PC’s spelling and grammar checkers is obvious advice, but I’m always surprised when I hear of people not taking
advantage of them. Just be aware that the suggestions they make are not always the right ones.
FINAL TIP: Try reading the story aloud, or even better, listen to someone else read it aloud. You'll be surprised how many problem areas
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One typo can destroy your life.
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