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13 plot points to check when reviewing your writing

In a continuous personal endeavour to improve, I am currently taking part in Probloggers 31 Day challenge. The task for Day two is to produce a list-post and the rest of this blog is my “homework”. A complete self critiquing checklist would be far longer but I have trimmed this one down (drastically). I hope you find it useful.

So you have finished your story/novel and you have put it aside for a few days so that it is not half in your head and half on paper. Now having picked it up, almost anew, you have to read it with the eyes and mind of your target reader. This is the time to find out where you messed up and fix the mess, before anybody else points it out to you.

Consider the following thirteen points as you read, leaving yourself notes in the margins as you go.

At this time DO NOT let your writers head back in your mind, fixing time is for after the review.

  • The opening: do the first two sentences drive the reader to read half of the first page?
  • The first half page: is the protagonist vivid, her problem represented, every word indispensable?
  • The plot: is the story arc clear and easy to follow, is it believable?
  • The structure: is the three act structure clear? If not, why not and fix it.
  • Plot start: does the story start at the right place, i.e. when the call to action happens.
  • Start to middle: is the “move to action” unavoidable, have all options be occluded?
  • Plot middle: does the tension increase continuously throughout? Flat spots = write out.
  • Speed: does the speed vary, does the reader have a rest (short) , is it paced with the conflict?
  • Confrontations: does the reader care about the protagonist, does the antagonist have depth?
  • Sub plots: are they adding anything to the main arc? No = cut. A little = write out.
  • Back-story, is it really required? Can it be spread, inferred, shown?
  • Plot end: does it wrap up all loose ends? Is it believable? Has the speed increased with the tension?
  • Final climax: does it have a WOW reaction? Is it too busy? Is it too far from the last page?

As said previously this list is not exhaustive and some points are not exclusively plot points.

Many other critique points on style, grammar, characters, dialogue, setting, description and redundancy would need to be taken in to account when reviewing your own work. Add your own checkpoints to the list and please do let me know any that you think should be included.

This article would not have been possible without input from the following sources

How to Critique Fiction; V Crayne. http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html
Self-editing for Fiction Writers; R Browne & D King
Plot and Structure; JS Bell

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