My Second Draft Checklist

As I dive into my second draft for Lamentation this week, I wanted to take a quick moment to share my little scene-by-scene checklist.

Second drafts are my favorite. It’s the part of the process where I take my mess of a first draft and turn it into a functioning novel. During the second draft, in a large sense, I make sure that my plot is working, my characters are consistent and interesting, and the pacing is effective. Looking at an entire manuscript can be overwhelming, which is why I focus on the changes needed on the scene level.

Here’s my checklist:

( ) Sound Pacing

( ) Clearly Painted Setting

( ) Accurate Characterization

( ) Limited Exposition

( ) Effective Ending Hook

( ) Can I picture it clearly?

( ) Is it compelling?

( ) Am I proud of it?

I copy and paste this into the Document Notes for each scene in my Scrivener file.


1.) Sound Pacing

Is it too abrupt? Too slow? Does it build up enough tension before an important event? Is the pacing well suited to the type of scene?

2.) Clearly Painted Setting

Can a reader picture the place in her mind? Does it have texture? Can I add more sensory details (smells, sounds, etc) to make it more vivid?

3.) Accurate Characterization

Are all of my characters behaving in a way that is consistent with their personalities and purpose? Are they believable? Are their voices clear, and is the dialogue of different characters easily differentiated?

4.) Limited Exposition

Have I passed on world, plot, and character information in the least invasive way possible? Does the scene feel as if it’s unfolding before me, or as if its merely being summarized or recounted? Am I spending too much time in my character’s head? Where exposition is necessary, is it sufficiently broken up by action and dialogue so as not to pull the reader out of the scene?

5.) Effective Ending Hook

Does the last line give the scene a sense of closure? Is it effecting: either by hinting at future problems, or by creating a strong emotion? Will the reader want to know more?

6.) Can I picture it clearly?

I’ve already checked the setting, but is the action clear? The characters? Is the scene comprehensible and vivid?

7.) Is it compelling?

Not all scenes are going to be equally compelling, but every scene should offer something to intrigue, to immerse the reader, to make them want to keep reading and spend more time with your characters. Is this particular scene interesting?

8.) Am I proud of it?

Not every scene can be the best scene in the book. You have to build up to the most exciting moments in a story, and the build is never quite as fun as the moment you’re building towards. BUT, every scene is an opportunity to showcase your skills as a writer. Perhaps the scene is not as action packed or as funny as some others in the book, but I might be proud of how subtly I related important information, or of how tight and clever the dialogue is.  So, find something to be proud of in every scene.



unsplash-logoEmma Matthews

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