Friday, March 1, 2013

It's Release Day!—Free Gift: The GTW Self-Editing Checklist

by Jill Williamson

Stephanie and I have been hard at workwriting a book! You're shocked, I know. This is no ordinary book, though. We've taken much of the information we've shared here on the Go Teen Writers blog, added a bunch more from our heads, and wrote a book for teen writers. It's a book on how to turn your book into a novel that's ready to be published. This is a guide for taking a complete first draft and editing it until it's ready for publication.

We're totally excited about this.

The book is available now in ebook formats. It's available in Kindle format on all the Kindle stores worldwide. It's also available on Barnes and Noble for the Nook and on Kobo. Click the links below to check it out (and click "like" for us when you do *wink*).

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook

The print book is coming soon, and it's lovely inside. It will cost a bit more that the ebook because of the materials and all the extra companies that get a cut of it (printers, distributors, bookstores). It will be available in online and in bookstores. Your local bookstore might not have it on the shelf, but they should be able to order it for you.

To celebrate, we're giving you some FREE content straight out of the Extras section in the back of the book. Here is the Go Teen Writers: Self-Editing Checklist (click here to download a printable copy), which is a great tool to get you started on the editing process.

This self-editing checklist follows the content of the book, so it also serves as a nice peek at what we talk about!

The Go Teen Writers Self-Editing Checklist

Macro Edit


Is my story problem established early? Why should the reader care? How is the beginning of my story? Have I:

•Shown the main character in his home world?
•Presented my main character with an invitation to go on a journey?
•Made it so he chooses to go on the journey? Have I given him a compelling enough reason?
•Established my character’s goal?

How is the middle of my story? Have I:

•Given my main character multiple people, places, activities, or objects to love and fight for?
•Presented my characters with multiple obstacles to overcome?
•Designed several big twists in the story?
•Created a big midpoint scene?
•Created a clear disaster that leads to an “all hope is lost” moment for the character?
•Made my other characters (antagonist and secondary) active? Are they living lives of their own?

How is the end of my story? Have I:

•Locked my main character into a final battle of sorts?
•Written a convincing win or loss?
•Written a denouement that fits the story?


Does my main character . . .

•Have an internal and external goal? What does he or she want most in the world?
•Have an inner desire? (Love, respect, honor)
•Believe in a lie?
•Choose to go on the story journey? If not, what would have to happen for him to choose to go?
•Have multiple people, places, or objects he loves?
•Go through grief when he loses something?

Does my antagonist . . .

•Have an internal and external goal of his own?
•Actively work to foil the plans of my main character?
•Have a compelling backstory and inner desire?
•Believe in a lie?
•Have anything or anyone he cares about?

Do the other characters in the story . . .

•Have different backstories from each other?
•Have problems of their own?
•Have something they want? Does it conflict with what the main character is trying to achieve?
•Oppose or challenge my main character’s worldview?


Have I taken time to consider my main character’s feelings about the setting?
What needs to be researched still?
What are the “laws” for my setting or magic and are they consistent with each other? (Applies mostly to fantasy/sci-fi.)

Did any themes grow organically when I wrote the story? If so, what are they?
Is there a way I can draw them out further?
Is there a symbol I can use?
Is this a theme my antagonist embraces as well or no?

Micro Edit

Check each scene for use of:

Point of View

Did I do a good job picking my POV character for each scene?
Did I share anything that the POV character wouldn’t know?
Do I jump into anyone else’s thoughts or do I try too hard to broadcast the thoughts and feelings of another character in the scene?
Run a search for the words “they” or “their.” Can I replace any of these with words that better reflect my POV character?
How is my balance of inner monologue? Am I letting the reader draw close to the character?

Backstory and Flashbacks

Did I over-explain anything in this scene?
Did I tell the backstory from the POV characters worldview?
If a flashback is used, did I put it at a time that makes sense?


Did I punctuate my dialogue in a way that makes my meanings clear?
Did my characters use different words and phrases from each other?
Have I considered this conversation from the views of all participants?
Run a search for “said,” “asked,” and other dialogue tags I use often. Is there an action tag or thought beat that would work better?
Why is my character saying this now? Why does she feel this is the right/best time?
Are there places where I info dump in my dialogue? Pay close attention to spots where I refer to time. (“Since today is Thursday, your assignment is due in two days.”)
In group conversations, how is the pacing? Is everyone pulling their own weight in the conversation?

Telling and Showing

Run a search for telling words: notice, found, spotted, experienced, looked, feeling, felt, watched, wondered, listened, tried, seemed, and thought. Did I use these words well? Or did I rely on them for telling the story instead of showing it?
Search for telling adverbs. Am I saying “he walked quickly” when I could say “he rushed?”
Run a search for the phrase “with a” and see if I tried to sneak in some telling that way too.


Did I give context for my scenes within the first paragraph (location, characters, time)?
Did I describe things through the eyes of my POV character?
Did I mention any items that may be important later? (If someone throws a vase at the end of the scene, make sure to mention it when describing the room.)
Was I smart about my word choice? Did I pick specific nouns, verbs, and adjectives that help set the mood for my story?
What senses (taste, touch, smell, feel, hear) have I used in each scene? Can I use more or different ones?

Freshening and Tightening Your Writing

Survey the length of sentences. Do I need to vary them?
Can I break up any long paragraphs?
Read the scene for clichés and overused phrases.
Apply the words of George Orwell to every sentence:
1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will best express it?
3. Is there an image or idiom that will make it clear?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Run a search for the word “it” and see if I can use a more specific word, especially if it’s the start of a sentence.
Are there places I used two words when I could use one instead?
Have I chosen the best possible words? Active, concrete words?
Search for the words: as, when, while, after, and continued to. Make sure those sentences are in a logical order—action, then reaction.
Hunt down passive phrases—search each scene for “was” or “is” depending on the tense of the book.
Check any sentences that begin with —ing words.
Check any sentences that use the phrases “began to” or “started to.”

Have I formatted everything correctly?

Is my title page single spaced and my manuscript double spaced?
Am I using 12-point Times New Roman or Courier font?
Does each chapter begin on a new page?
Do I have one space after punctuation, not two?

Run Spell Check

Double-check for correct punctuation,
grammar, and common typos:

Run a search for those tricky words and any others I tend to misspell:
“Chance” when I meant “change”

Run a search for my placeholders.

What’s a placeholder?
Many writers, when they come across something they need to research or write in more detail but don’t want to take the time right then, they’ll put in a placeholder word or symbol to mark that they need to come back.
Stephanie uses the word “GIRAFFE” for things she needs to fill in or an asterisk (*) if she’s not happy with a phrase but doesn’t have the brainpower at the moment to fix it. Jill tends to highlight the place that needs a little more love, or she’ll add a comment to remind herself what she needs to come back and finish.
While typically you’ll have fixed them all by the end of the micro edit, always run a check for your placeholders just to be sure!

Again, click here to download a printable copy of the Go Teen Writers: Self-Editing Checklist.


  1. I'm getting the book as I write this. Amazon's page is open and everything. Can't wait to read it!
    ~Sarah Faulkner

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  3. It's finally out! Just bought it on B&N! So excited!

  4. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! So excited! :D :D :D

  5. Thanks, guys! We're pretty pumped!

    1. Yes, thank you! It's been a fun project to work on. :-)

  6. YAY! IT'S OUT!

  7. I definitely want to have that book! But I don't have an e-reader, and the paper version is no option (US is just too far away ;-) Can you read it on your computer, anyway?
    Does anyone know how to solve this problem?

    1. You can sometimes download a kindle app onto your computer to buy ebooks with. I hope you find a way to get the book. It's going to be epic! :-)

    2. you can also get a book app for an iphone or ipod touch. I don't know it it's on there, but you could always check!

    3. Like Allison mentioned, there's an Amazon app that you can download for your computer or smartphone. My internet is being funky, so I can't find it right now, but I'll see if I can get a link on here for you.


    5. Also, Arende, give us a few weeks. The paperback book will have international distribution. Perhaps you could get it through the book depository? Have you ever used them?

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    7. I have never used them. Can you explain what it is? And have you any idea what the price will be(cheeky question;))? Maybe it's a good idea to wait for it. But that's so hard;-)

  8. Yes! I am so excited! Totally buying it today.


  9. I'm out at the moment, but buying this as soon as I get in the door!! So excited!!! Yaaaaaaayyy!!!!!!!!!! :D

  10. Yay! *blows kazoo, and throws streamers* It's out! Congrats guys! I really want to read this, but I'm going to wait for the paper copy. Twill be a hard thing to do... :)

  11. I am so excited about this!! I'm gonna have to wait for the paper copy, but totally buying it as soon as its out! :)

  12. I can't wait to get this! Looks like it has a ton of stuff I could work on.......... I'm going to (have to) wait for the paper copy though ;)

  13. Oooh!! I printed it off! Thank you ;)

  14. Thanks, this list looks great, and it's just what I need right now.
    Now the only thing I have to decide is whether to get the paper or electronic version of the book...

  15. WOW! I think i'll buy it on my nook! It sounds awesome:)

  16. The list looks awesome. I'll definitely use that to edit, and I'm buying the book when it's out in paper. Congrats on release day!

  17. Yay! I'm buying it right now!

  18. Replies
    1. Yes, thanks, everyone. You guys are so awesome. :-)

  19. So excited! I can't wait to read it, but I'm waiting for the print copy. You'll let us know when it's available, right?

    Thank you so much for writing this for all of us!

  20. Just bought it! Thanks so much for writing this! I'm so excited.
    And the price was great too! I was worried it would be double that for ebook then there was so way I could convince my parents to let me get it!

  21. I am very excited for this book. How many days till it comes out in print?!

  22. Thanks, everyone! We're hoping it will be out in print in a few weeks. We'll let you know when it's available. :-)

  23. I'm going to wait for the hard copy versions and see if I will be able to get it via The Book Depository to get it shipped to the world of Europe, hihi. Already printed the checklist, this is so great! Congratulations on the publishing!

  24. Yay!!! So awesome!! Thanks for the list!

  25. Wow! Thanks for sharing! I'll be sure to look into if I can buy it. It seems very helpful and the questions really made me reflect back on my book!
    Thanks so much!!