Monday, January 16, 2012

My Self Editing Checklist

She’s making a list and checking it twice. Gonna find verbs that are naughty or nice. Okay, well maybe I’m going off the deep end here. J But on a serious note when I’m editing I do make a list and check it twice. This is a list I’ve compiled using various writing books, other sources and things I’ve developed myself. I generally use this for every chapter, usually when I’m on my second or third draft. It’s a great tool for analyzing each chapter to see if all the necessary components are there. It also might be a good tool to use when critiquing or analyzing another piece of fiction.

So without further ado, my self-editing checklist.
1)Is there a good beginning hook? Does it drop the reader into the fictional dream? If not, what changes need to be made

2)Is there well-defined conflict and a feasible problem for the protagonist to solve? If not, what problem/event can be added or heightened?

3)Is there a brief description of the setting/time and place? Does it inform the reader without boring them? What changes can be made to improve this?

4)Does each chapter “begin with a bang”? Or does it start slowly, with unnecessary details or backstory? Where does the chapter really begin? Do I need to eliminate things that dull the beginning?

5)Was the chapter compelling? Will it keep readers turning pages? Or was it filler? What can be done to fix this?

6)Did the chapter move the plot forward? What is this chapter’s purpose?

7)Will the ending of the chapter hook the reader? Will they want to read more? Can you end the chapter a page earlier and gain more tension?

8)Are there any flashbacks? Are they necessary? Do they slow the plot down? How can they be shortened or made more dramatic?

9)Were there enough sensory descriptions? Do they seem too wordy? Would the reader skip over them or do they add to the fictional dream?

10)Was the dialog consistent with each character’s age, education, and view on life? Was it full of tension? Did the character’s “pass the time of day” in any parts? Delete those and reword.

11)Are the character’s actions consistent with their personalities? If not, is there a genuine reason why they acted out of character? Is this reason revealed to the reader?

12)Are there unnecessary dialog tags that can be omitted, such as when only two characters are conversing? Is it clear which character is speaking?

13)Is there any “head hopping” or unclear POV’s? Is the POV consistent? Make changes accordingly.

14)Are there any continuity errors, such as character descriptions, etc.?

15)Are the historical details conveyed accurately? Double check sources. (Note. This only applies to novels set not in the present era)

16)Any clichés that can be replaced? Replace these with fresh intriguing phrases.

17)Is the inspirational element present in a way that is not preachy? Is the character’s faith journey displayed at all?

18)Is there continual romantic tension? (Note. This only applies to romances or novels with romantic subplots)

19)Is the chapter a suitable length? Is it too long or too short?

20)Is all grammar and punctuation correct?

**Lastly, when ending the book and that last chapter, consider:
21) How is the ending of the book? Were all subplots wrapped up? Was it a dramatic “leave the reader pondering ending”, along with a lasting impression. Can it be improved?

There you have it. My self-editing checklist. Feel free to use this for your own novels, and may it help you as much as it has me.

Happy Writing and Editing,

What do you find helps you in the editing process? Any books or tips? Pass them along for all of us to glean from.


Christina B said...

Great list, Amanda! It can be really hard self-editing, so having a check system in place to catch those common mistakes, is a huge plus.

I know that, for me, stepping back and then reviewing what I've written through a fresh pair of eyes, makes a world of difference. What an hour ago might have seemed a work of genius, is suddenly rife with groan worthy cliches. :)

Thanks for compiling and sharing what works for you. I always enjoy getting helpful new tips!

Laura Marcella said...

That's a terrific list, Amanda. I can see it will definitely be helpful throughout the editing process!

Great Lakes Romances said...

Amanda, thanks for this list. Many writers could benefit from its point-by-point advice. I'm saving it to my writer resources folder to remind me what to look for while revising.
Donna Winters