Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Novel Checklist Revisited

Here's one of my favorite posts from last year:

I was re-working the outline and first few chapters of my fourth Detective Jackson novel and a few things were bothering me. So I went back to the basics and decided to share my eight-point checklist.

Story arc. Does the protagonist grow and evolve? Is the narrative smooth or does it have gaps in logic?

Is your plot logical? Do you have important scenes that would make a reader say “No one would ever do that”? Is your plot both linear and complex?

Point of view. Is your POV consistent for large chunks of text? Do you tell each scene from the point of view of the character who has the most to lose?

Dialogue. Does each character use distinctive word choices? Do you break up long conversations with body language and movement?

Info dumps.
Do you have big chunks of exposition that slow the story down? Can they be broken up or shared as dialogue?

Are your characters both believable and unique? Is their behavior consistent within the story framework?

Language. Do you use of mix of long and short sentences? Are there overused words or phrases (of course, just, even, that)?

Unresolved issues.
Is every plot line resolved and questions accounted for? If something is bothering you, it will bother your readers.


L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist, editor, and the author of the Detective Jackson mysteries, The Sex Club , Secrets to Die For, and Thrilled to Death, and two standalone thrillers, The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. All are available on Kindle for $2.99. Contact her at:
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  1. Great check list, L.J. Definitely one worth printing out and keeping near my desk. Thanks.


  2. Thank you for posting this list. It's fantastic. I'm definitely bookmarking this post AND printing it out to hang on the wall by my desk.

  3. So cool, L.J. Thanks. I'm about to begin my first novel and this will be so helpful.

  4. I like your checklist. Especially the POV question:

    Do you tell each scene from the point of view of the character who has the most to lose?

    I'm in the middle of rewrite of a multi-viewpoint novel and that's the perfect question for me.

  5. This is a great list. I add the ol' Dwight Swain scene formula of goal-conflict-disaster. Does the POV character have a goal? What is keeping her from acheving it? Waht new problem arises to drive the plot forward? This keeps each scene working.

  6. Excellent list, L.J. While some were familiar, I had not thought about how a scene needs to be in the POV of the character with the most to lose. I'll have to add that one to my checklist as I revise my latest work.

  7. Excellent. I'm copying this and keeping it on my desktop. Thanks.

  8. Me, too. I just printed it out. Thanks for a great checklist.

    Back to brainstorming my way out of a plot problem.


  9. Bless you, my child! LOL! Seriously, thank you SO VERY MUCH for posting this. It's stuff I sort of know, but really needed to see and put in perspective all over again.

  10. Info Dumps! Yes, those are bad... get rid of them. Even if theyr are important, parcel them out. Readers want action and want to see the story move along.

    Unresolved Issues! You absolutely must take care of these. Mystery/crime fiction readers want order to be restored in the end.

    Cheers, Jill

  11. Excellent post. Thanks for sharing :)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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