My Editing Checklist

One of my friends is an artist who paints. When I told her I was working on my second rewrite for Emma: A Latter-day Tale, she told me that she would never re-do a painting to please anyone. I couldn't decide whether to be jealous of her or not. It would be so nice to not have to change anything--to just write and be done with it. On the other hand, I love being able to go back and fix things. Good writing involves a lot of rewriting. My current editor has been great at helping me to strengthen my story with a lot of rewriting.

Writers have a saying: "Kill your darlings." That means your favorite lines are usually the ones you need to delete. There's been a full-on masacre of my darlings this week as I've tried to make Emma more likeable. All of Emma's judgmental and sarcastic lines have died a quick and merciless death.

I think every writer has their own weaknesses that they need to focus on while revising. Here's the checklist I went through as I was going through my "final" revisions, which turned out to be not-so-final:

Check to make sure all the main characters have clear character arcs. What are the internal changes in each character? What does each character learn?

Is your main character likable and endearing? How can you help the reader relate to him or her?

Do you learn something new about each of the main characters in each chapter? Can you answer most of the questions on a character worksheet like this one?

Have you researched all necessary details, such as characters' professions, medical situations, locations, etc.?

Is each setting interesting? Add details to make sure readers can visualize each setting. Use the five senses.

Excitement and Emotion
Does your first chapter hook the reader? Can you eliminate any unnecessary details?

Does each chapter draw the reader in with a hook in the first paragraph?

Does each chapter end with a hook to keep the reader interested?

Can the reader feel the tension during the climax chapters. Are the characters suffering enough? Can the reader feel their emotions?

Can the reader feel the emotion during the final resolution?

Nit-picky Things
Read the whole thing out loud, looking for missing words, unrealistic dialogue, and other errors that stand out.

Do a search and replace to eliminate double spaces.

Check for words writers should delete (see this post.) I also check for the words I use too much: just, that, sort of, really, then, kind of, and actually.

Spell Check


  1. Good checklist! I would be horribly embarrassed to let anyone read a first draft of one of my manuscripts, so I'm glad writers get to do a few rewrites.

  2. Great checklist. I'm bookmarking this.


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