Arch: does your story have a three-act structure: beginning, middle, and end?
Break-up: take a break from your manuscript so you can see it with “Fresh” Eyes.
Consistent: whether you write in past, present, or perfect tense, make sure that you are consistent throughout your manuscript.
Dialogue: take out any dialogue tags that you don’t need. Only use a dialogue tag if the identity of the speaker is unclear.
Evolve: does your character change throughout the story? How do they grow?
Feedback: alphas, betas, critique partners, and more, find a group of people to give you feedback.
Grab: does your opening line capture the tone of your story? Does it have a hook or something unexpected to grab the reader’s attention?
Head hopping: do you stick to the same Point of View? Or do you hop from head to head?
Inner dialogue: does your reader know what your character is thinking? Feeling? Struggling with?
Jokes: whatever your genre, a little comic relief is always welcome.
Kill your darlings: take out side characters that aren’t essential to the plot.
Length: vary your sentence and paragraph lengths. It makes it more interesting for the reader.
Motivations: does your character act or only react? Does your character have goals and motivations? Do they fail or have obstacles to use their wits and skills?
Names: are they too similar? Do they start with the same letter or sound?
Overused words: take out just, so, really, etc. Also check for repetition of words in the same paragraph; take them out or look for synonyms.
Pacing: is the pace too slow in some places? Does it sag in the middle? Is the end satisfying?
Quotes: borrowing quotes from other fandoms is fun, but make sure that the wisdom comes from your characters and not from other writers.
Read Aloud: every single word. You’ll catch repetition, missing words, and dialogue that doesn’t sound right.
Stakes: raise the stakes, both internally and externally for your character. How much can the character withstand before abandoning their beliefs? What sacrifices does your character make for the goal?
Telling: show don’t tell. Telling: summarizes, names emotion, names a sense, and names an action. Showing dramatizes like a movie scene, uses dialogue, sensory language, and details to help the reader experience the same feeling.
Use the Rule of Three: if a symbol is used once it’s interesting, twice it’s a pattern, and three times it’s a theme.
Voice: how is your character unique?
Wicked: is your antagonist as interesting as your protagonist? Does the reader know their beliefs, loyalties, traits, and emotions?
X it: don’t be afraid to cut out scenes and anything else that is slowing down the pace.
Years: check dates, years, and timelines for accuracy.
Zigzaggery: does your manuscript have surprises, twists, or mini-cliffhangers at the end of chapters to keep your reader hooked?
Meet Samantha Hastings at TABC 2020!
Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. Her first novel, The Last Word, is available now. The Invention of Sophie Carter comes out on July 14, 2020 and A Royal Christmas Quandary arrives October 2020