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Fiction Diagnostic Checklist


Remember: Talent leads, intellect polishes.


If your first draft is ready to go, review the lists below and consider how their points may apply to your story. I’ve compiled this list out of my own experiences and those of my clients. This list does not intend to provide exact-science measures for your first draft. Your first draft should not be created scientifically. If your first draft is finished, stop for a few days to review your plot, characters and narrator functions to solidify your base as you move into the self-editing and rewriting phase.


There are two lists. Using them both is advised, but using one or the other will enhance your first draft enough to enlighten your rewriting phase.


My novel…


  • Clearly indicates characters, narrators and settings.

  • Clearly indicates the goals and deterrents for all major characters.

  • Attempts to complete plot lifecycles using cause and effect.

  • Uses conflict as a driver of plot.

  • Is free of personal views that aren’t processed into fiction elements.

  • Is free of superfluous injections or irrelevant text.

  • Is built by scenes and made of action.

  • Has dialogue that is clear to somebody other than the writer.


My novel does not…


  • Disregard plot.

  • Keep character personalities uniformly consistent for the novel’s duration.

  • Leave open a superfluous amount of plot lifecycles.

  • Inject a superfluous amount of narrator input (outside of a tight first-person dynamic).

  • Contain any unneeded text.

  • Lose clarity in its use of time.

  • Rip off another writer’s work.

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