Whether you are submitting a manuscript to an editor, agent, or to your critique group here are some guidelines to follow:
- Did you use the proper format?
- Are you showing, not telling?
- Is it as tight as it can be? remove adverbs and unnecessary adjective.
- Is the manuscript an appropriate word length?
- Did you use correct grammar (tense, spelling etc.?)
- Did you use correct punctuation, especially for dialogue?
- Did you proofread carefully to catch typos?
- Is there variety in the sentence structure?
- Is there variety in the paragraph length?
- Is your language appropriate for the age of the audience?
- Beware of alliteration: i.e., “Little Larry leapt” or “She cursed and cried and called.”
- Beware of overuse of “And” or “But” at the beginning of sentences.
- Watch out for cliches.
- Weed out Weasel Words: really, finally, just, very, so, then, next, seems, seemed, began…
- Are you overusing: as, looked, that, turned?
- Search for pet words and phrases that you’ve overused.
- Are you using active verbs?
- Check for sentences that begin with “there” and reword them.
- Are you using specific nouns?
- Did you use at least 3 of the 5 senses?
- Did you resist the urge to explain? Make what you say clear and important the first time and you won’t have to retell the reader.
- Does the story flow when read aloud?
- Does the story stay in the main character’s viewpoint?
- Does the main character solve the problem?
- Is the story conflict identified early on?
- Is the story idea age appropriate?
- Is the story believable?
- Does the story have action?
- First sentence – is it compelling? Does it hook the reader?
- Does the story come full circle? Tie back to the beginning?
- Have you avoided coincidences and convenient plot solutions?
- Beware of being didactic or preachy.
- Is your setting clear?
- Does the story fit the genre?
- Is it clear who your audience is?
- Does the story have a universal theme?
- Does your story take a predictable/same old story idea and give it a new twist?
- Do we know the age of the main character?
- Is the character appropriate for the age of the audience?
- Will the reader be able to quickly identify the main character of your story?
- Does your main character grow and change?
- Is your main character unique and three dimensional?
- Is your main character sympathetic or easy to identify with?
- Is the character’s voice unique?
- Is it clear who is speaking?
- Do your characters have distinctive voices?
- Avoid most speaker attributions meant to replace “said” (exclaimed, retorted, responded, inquired, etc.)
- Do you use action tag lines as well as simple attributions (said, asked)?
- Is the dialogue natural sounding?
- Does the dialogue move the story forward?
- Remove dialogue that is there to convey information to the reader.
- Watch out for characters “speechifying.”
FOR PICTURE BOOKS
- Does it have good rhythm and meter? (This doesn’t mean it was written in verse).
- s there plenty of action for an illustrator to illustrate?
- Is the story sacrificed to make it fit into verse?
- Would this be more appropriate for a magazine piece?
(Kind thanks to Sue Ford www.susanuhlig.com for this information.)
RETURN TO TABLE OF CONTENTS