Editing Checklist for a Fictional Book

I can’t remember where I found this checklist (if you are the author, please let me know). I’ve started giving this checklist to clients of fiction, so they can see quickly comments regarding their work. Of course, I always write up a final editing summary when I finish a book edit, but this serves as table of contents, as it were.

Editing Checklist for a Fictional Book

_____ Learn proper manuscript format.
_____ The opening doesn’t grab the reader’s interest in the first paragraphs and keep it. It lacks an inciting incident or someone important doing something important.
_____ The opening pages contain too much description and background information.
_____ Your pacing is too slow . You use too many words to convey your ideas.
_____ Needs to be written in active voice using vivid words.
_____ There is excess description. Consider tightening or using action instead.
_____ Description needs to be filtered through a character’s viewpoint.
_____ Too many modifiers.
_____ Narrative fiction is generally written in past tense, not present. Try a rewrite in the past tense using active verbs.
_____ Your grammar needs editing.
_____ Need more characterization. Readers need to understand how the characters think, feel, act and react. Reader needs to understand their motivations.
_____ Dialogue does not sound natural.
______ Too wordy.
______Characters give speeches.
______Characters do not sound distinctive.
______Characters sound stiff or stilted.
______Characters convey information they already know.
_____ Characters are not adequately motivated or motivations are not understandable.
_____ You seem to be concentrating on style and not on content or storytelling.
_____ The writing is too noticeable–it’s getting in the way of the story.
_____ There is redundancy, you are repeating ideas and events.
_____ Too many short sentences.
_____ Too many long sentences.
_____ Your story tends towards melodrama or overwrought prose or dialogue.
_____ There is not enough setting or setting details are not clearly drawn.
_____ The ending does not adequately address the plot questions.
_____ There are not enough twists, surprises and complications.
_____ There is not enough tension, suspense or conflict.
_____ There are not enough obstacles for the characters.
_____ Your point of view is unclear.
_____You’ve chosen the wrong point of view.
_____Your point of view slips.
_____ First person might work better as third person.
_____ The story is not adequately dramatized. It’s not chiefly told in scenes.
_____ You tell the story instead of show the story.
_____ The subplot overshadows the plot.
_____The subplot does not add to the overall story.
_____ The subplot starts too soon.

Published by: Karen Y. Hamilton

Walt Whitman says about his autobiography, Specimen Days “…At any rate I obey my happy hour’s command, which seems curiously imperative. May-be, if don’t do anything else, I shall send out the most wayward, spontaneous, fragmentary book ever printed.” This is what I feel at this juncture of my life, the need to gather together memories of my ancestors as well as my own memories into some semblance of order. Because all of those fragments, all of the fragments that make up any life, become stories. I am the mother of three sons, who affectionately (I hope!) call me 'gypsy mom' because I tend to wander around a bit soaking in the universe's wonders. I am currently working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. I have published essays with Heritage Press, Florida Living, and the St. Pauls Review. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Florida Everglades pioneers and a memoir about grief and the bonds of friendship. I live in my hometown, Jupiter, Florida and work as a freelance writer and curriculum specialist.

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