Self-Editing Checklist from Red Circle Ink
Let yourself forget the story and come at it cold.
Rewrite the cinematic tagline of your story as you know it now.
Re-read your story as a first-time reader, keeping the revised tagline in mind.
Start with big-picture re-visioning of conflict, character, and cadence:
Conflict evaluation: Is your plot (i.e. stakes and consequences)…
- Instantly relatable
- Deeply personal
- Compellingly dramatized
- Escalating to a satisfying conclusion
- Core personality (relatable and interesting)
- Goal, motivation, and conflict
- Character issue (wound)
- Fear (holding back, driving forward)
- Purpose (want vs. need)
- Growth arc (sequential steps of change)
- Moments of change (linked to plot)
Cadence evaluation: (pacing)
- Master scene list with rising tension
- Break up gray pages
- Varied and engaging rhythm (of chapters, scenes, paragraphs, sentences, words)
Refine mid-level issues: Do you have clear and compelling…
- Emotion—Have you moved the reader?
- Point of view (the characters’ and yours)
- Worldbuilding (fresh, coherent, and evocative)
- Setting and timing (continuity)
Polish line-level issues including:
- Create unique character voices with character-specific imagery
- Evoke a sensory experience with the full range of senses
- Limit filter words that put the reader at a distance
- Leverage power positions (beginnings and ends)
- Punch up dialogue and internal monologue
Tackle word-level copyediting after everything else is “perfect”
- Amplify power words—strong verbs, specific nouns, evocative adjectives
- Avoid clichés
- Be aware of your darlings
Proofreading: “Last” pass
Change the font. Print it out. Read backward. Read aloud. Have your computer read to you.
The one rule:
Be compelling. The story matters most. All editing serves the flow of story.