Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 1, 2018

CHECKLIST: Twenty Novel Revisions

Time to start thinking about improving your manuscript. Hope this cute illustration by Gael Abary inspires you to get started. Gael was recently featured on Illustrator Saturday.

Below is a checklist to help you revise.

1. Manuscript opening hook – chapter opening and closing hooks.

2. Do you think your beginning is interesting enough for a reader to want to read more? Todays readers have short attention spans, You have to grab them right away.

3. Check for backstory. Hook the reader with the story before flashing back.

4. What is the conflict in the story? Is it strong enough or is it something that could easily be resolved with a conversation?

5. Did you give the reader a sense of the setting? Don’t leave the reader in the dark about the place and time. On the other hand, don’t go overboard or else, the reader will skip your lovely description?

6. Have you involved the senses, such as smell, touch, taste, etc?

7. Have read you manuscript out loud? Look for places where you have written the same thing by telling it in a different way. Do you really need it? If you deleted it could you still the story?

8. Are their spots that don’t hold your interest? Does you middle sag? (refering to your book.)

9. Does the dialog sound natural?

10. Look for places where the dialog sounds like an info dump?

11. Are there places where you can eliminate a tag and replace it with a beat? (Example: he said, she said). A good way to do that is to have the character do something and then put in the dialog. That will clue the reader into who is talking.

12. Look for sentences that are clumsy and rework them to make them smooth and clearer? Don’t you hate it when you read a book and have to read a sentence two or three times to figure out what the author was trying to say?

13. Check to the manuscript for accuracy and consistency. Make sure you didn’t say one thing in the beginning and change it to something else later in the book. Examples of what I have seen: An Aunt who later becomes an Uncle. Really bad weather where the characters had to leave town and shortly later stop to have lunch and the weather is never mentioned again. The book starts out with four children and then suddenly there are only three. Cell phones in the 1700’s or horse-drawn carriages – no cars, but inns have bathrooms with running water.

14. Is their plenty of white space? Look for long blocks of text, running half a page or more. Try to break those up by interspersing dialog.

15. Is you main character sympathetic? Do they have layers? Are the 3-dimensional? Are their motivations strong and clear?

16. If you wrote a Prologue, ask yourself if it is really needed. Most editors do not like them. Of course there are some books where the prologue is the only thing that kept me reading.

17. Have you woven in a sub-plot? This will give you book more depth.

18. Check all your secondary characters to make sure they contribute to the story.

19. Are some of your character names too similar? Or are their names so unusal that they are hard to remember? Sometime fantasy novel have so many characters with unusal names you need a key to help remember who is who and then the next book comes out a few years later (after reading a few hundred books and you can’t remember who’s who. If you are writing fantasy – consider listing the characters names, how they are related, and the part they played in the first book. I’ve seen this a few times and it really helped.

20. Do you have any needless characters? Look for the reasons for why they are in your book? Could two characters be merged?

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great reminders–and super cute illustration! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are very helpful–to do along the way, not just at the finish.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I just had to remove a character from a story I was working on. I really wanted to keep him in but he didn’t add anything so out he went. Sometimes you have to be ruthless.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You know I love checklists, Kathy 😉 Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great list, Kathy. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

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