Monday, February 6, 2012

A checklist for self-editing

I'm really excited to have Amanda Barratt here today. Amanda is a teen writer whom I "met" on Seekerville. When I saw this self-editing checklist on her blog, I immediately shot her an email and said, "I know you don't know me, but please come share this on Go Teen Writers!"

Okay, I tried to be a bit more professional than that, but that was the gist of our conversation.

Amanda Barratt is a Historical Romance author who has just finished her fifth novel. She has won several awards for her fiction and enjoys writing about eras such as the Gilded Age and Regency England. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Writers. She lives in northern Michigan with her family where she enjoys attending writers conferences, reading, researching history, and of course writing.
To learn more about Amanda and her writing visit

And here is Amanda's wonderful list for self-editing:

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. :)

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 clich├ęs 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!


Amanda, thank you so much for being here and sharing such a great resource with us! 

Anyone have something they'd like to add to the list? Something on my self-editing checklist is to run a search for all my "pet words," like just, was, something, it, really, and quirked. 


  1. Really lovely...will be using this. :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Actually, Stephanie, you DID know her! We all sat together at the banquet at the ACFW conference. =)

    Great list, Amanda! As a not-a-list girl, I appreciate those who actually write down their checklist like this . . . and can offer very little in addition, because my list is totally in my brain, LOL.

  3. Stephanie, thank you so much for having me here on Go Teen Writers today! I’m so excited to be here!!

    Hi Olivia! So glad to see you here. And so glad you liked the list. Actually, I’m planning on using it today. LOL.

    Roseanna, from what I’ve read of your writing, it sounds like the list in your head must be very comprehensive and well thought out. :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

    1. So glad you're here, Amanda!

      And apparently (according to Roseanna, anyway) we sat together at ACFW. Not sure how I managed to not notice eating dinner with you! The only explanation I can think of is I was a total airhead that whole night because a friend had asked me to pick up her award if she won, and I was super preoccupied with my fears of tripping and bumbling her speech. (Sadly, she didn't win. And Roseanna learned that she does NOT want to ask me when she's nominated for a Carol....)

  4. This should be really useful! Thanks.

  5. I'll definitely be saving these tips and printing them out. These are truly invaluable tidbits of editing information! Thanks for sharing your list with us, Amanda! =)

  6. Thanks so much, Stephanie and Amanda! This is really helpful. :)

  7. Stephanie, I’m looking forward to meeting you at the next conference. And I totally understand about being nervous. I would be petrified too :)

    Ellyn, Sarah Elizabeth, and Allison, so glad you all enjoyed the post! Hope you all are having a great writing week!

  8. I'll definitely remember this list for when I edit. (When I make it that far.) Things I'd add to the list are: consistency errors, (I often change my mind about facts in the middle of the novel), check that people always have the same names, and check for enough emotions and internalisations, all things I'm really bad at.

  9. The fictional dream. Love that wording.
    One thing I've found that I tend to do a lot is change senses. In the same paragraphs. So it'll be like, "I glanced over at him. He's walking over and I giggled hysterically." Don't worry, I didn't pull it out of a manuscript. And hopefully I'm not that bad. But now you know what I'm talking about!