What’s the most useful editing tip you’ve ever discovered? For me, it’s the idea of going back and giving characters props they would naturally interact with. This technique alone, can: 

  • enhance setting
  • help readers recognise a location
  • build character and mood
  • act as a beat so you can imply who is speaking
  • and even remind readers of the presence of bystanders who aren’t speaking.

In fact it kills about four-and-twenty-blackbirds with one stone, and as I’ve spent three years reading every bit of PROFESSIONAL writing advice I can, I’ve got a 70+ point checklist full of similar gems. My list covers everything from large-scale considerations to grammatical and punctuation errors your spell-checker won’t always notice, and I’ve decided to post it as a series, starting today!

The list is broken into sections for Structure, Point of View, Showing Instead of Telling, Characterisation, Setting and Writing Mechanics, based on what I’ve found is the easiest order to work in. As a result it’s starts out quite general, but stick around and it’ll traverse into the nitty-gritty, where it works best as a chapter-by-chapter checklist. Hope it helps!  And feel free to comment with your tips and I can add them in. J

The Over-do-er’s Editing Checklist: Structure


1. Does each chapter start and finish with a hook?Checklist

2. Do you have peaks and troughs in both the tension of your plot/sub-plots and the emotions of your characters?

3. If you find a lengthy trough, can you increase the tension and conflict? But don’t increase for the sake of it, if you can instead work in the details somewhere else.

4. Do the climactic sections of your novel follow the structure of: Scene (Goal, conflict, disaster) and Sequel (Emotion, quandary, decision, action)?

5. Do you have too many action scenes in a row; or scenes where the character’s ordinary actions are described in too much detail? Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to summarize.

6. If a section of your novel feels too slow, you might want to check the MC. Are they driving the action or waiting around? The antagonist can also drive the action, as long as the MC is actively responding to that.

7. Is the chapter driving the story forward? If the plot would make sense without it, work in those details somewhere else.

8. Are your characters’ goals clear?

9. Does your ending tie up all loose ends? Does it feel rushed?

10. Anything else I’ve missed? Let me know!

And if you liked this post, you may like my checklists for point of view and showing instead of telling, too. 🙂