Checklist: Preparing Your Manuscript for Critique

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.”


  • 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 for this information.)