Here are thirty questions to ask yourself before you pronounce it done.
- Does your story have a hook? Something that readers can talk about?
- Are the characters rounded enough both on the page and off? Do they have histories and lives beyond the events within the story?
- Are the characters distinct and differentiated from each other enough to merit all of them being included?
- Do the characters have wounds and goals that collide against the plot?
- Do your protagonist’s goals and decisions drive the plot?
- Do you convey your setting in enough detail to ground the reader in the world with your characters?
- Does the first page, or at least the first paragraph, hint at the story question and the type of book it’s going to be?
- Does the inciting incident, the thing that changes the main character’s trajectory, come close enough to the beginning that you keep the reader hooked?
- Is there a question on the first page, and every page after that, to keep the reader reading through the inciting incident?
- Is the question in the inciting incident big enough to keep the reading reading after that?
- Does the reader care about the characters by the inciting incident enough for the trauma in the inciting incident to matter?
- Does every scene in the book change the story or the characters in a meaningful way?
- Would the story suffer if you removed any of the scenes?
- Are there scenes that you didn’t show that are needed to fill holes in the plot or the emotional development of your characters?
- Does every scene have a beginning, a middle, and an end?
- Does every scene have a goal that results in failure, a new goal, or an additional complication for the story?
- Is there at least one conflict in every scene, either between characters, against an outside force, or within the protagonist?
- Is the conflict in the main plot big enough?
- Do the scenes in the book fluctuate between highs and lows for the protagonist and grow more intense toward the end of the book?
- Do the scenes have the appropriate weight and space given the emotional impact of what happens in them?
- Does the conflict push your characters into revealing the best and worst parts of themselves?
- Do the relationships between the characters deepen and change in response to the events in the book? Do they push each other to change?
- Are all the characters changed in both themselves and their circumstances enough to deserve a book written about them?
- Is the pacing appropriate for the genre you are writing? Will it meet reader expectations?
- Is the ending satisfying and both twist and meet reader expectations?
- Did you allow enough time for the ending for the reader to feel satisfied before they closed the book?
- Is the voice appropriate to the genre and is the book well-written enough?
- Do you show over tell wherever possible and include enough detail in your telling moments to keep the reader’s interest?
- Is the writing grammatically correct? Non-wordy? Do you overuse adverbs, dialogue tags, or certain words or phrases?
- Do you love the book enough to be willing to read it at least fifteen more times?
About the Author
Martina Boone is the award-winning author of the romantic southern gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy, including Compulsion, Persuasion, and Illusion, out now in the romantic from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse.
She was born in Prague in the shadow of a magical castle and grew up hearing stories about alchemists and hopeless dreamers, which may be loves to write about romantic, magical worlds the lost characters who live in them.
She's on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.