Ginny McBlain,
    Romance Writer

Ginny's Writing Tips

Self-Editing Checklist

"You're not a writer; you're a rewriter." ~~Diane Wicker Davis

Self-editing is an ongoing process from the time you start the manuscript until the final revisions are complete. If time permits, let the completed manuscript sit awhile before you begin major editing. You will see things more clearly when it's not fresh in your mind. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself.


1. Have I eliminated as many "red flag" words as possible?
(after, as, because, before, caused, during, felt, had, it, just, made, only, seems, slightly, that, to be, until, was, when, while, with)
2. Did I show, not tell? Change words that tell, such as stunned, tired, excited.
3. Have I used the most active sentence construction possible?
4. Have I used strong, vivid verbs?
5. Have I eliminated as many adverbs--those dreaded ly words-as
6. Have I used correct grammar?
7. Do the pronouns match the antecedents?
8. Is the spelling correct?
10. Have I repeated thoughts, ideas and words unnecessarily?
11. Have I varied my sentences in length and structure?
12. Have I checked for left out words?
13. Have I used my computer's ability to find habitual typos?
14. Have I used enough contractions in both dialogue and narrative to keep the reader from tripping over his/her tongue?
15. Have I attempted to throw in extraneous information in the dialogue?
16. Have I checked to make sure I used the correct word when a word sounds like another?
17. Did I carefully consider the input of others? Did I change what should be changed? Have I been honest in justifying what I did not change?


1. Does my story have an opening hook?
2. Do my character's goals change in the middle?
3. Does every scene move the story forward?
4. Is there enough conflict to sustain the story?
5. Is the back story interspersed to raise suspense?
6. Have I checked for inconsistencies?
7. Have I ended the chapters with a page turner or a thought/question to compel the reader to continue on with the story?
8. Do my scenes flow from one to the another smoothly?
9. Is the research correct?
10. Is the end satisfying?
11. Are all the loose ends tied up and the logical conclusions drawn?
12. Does my premise hold up? Did I prove what I set out to prove?


1. Do my hero and heroine have characteristics that make them heroic?
2. Are my characters well-motivated and sympathetic?
3. Can the reader feel the character's emotions?
4. Do my characters react properly to motivation?
5. Do my characters speak with their own voice?
6. Does the dialogue flow naturally?
7. Did I head-hop? When in doubt about Point-of-View, is the scene written in the view point of the character who has the most to lose?
8. Do I have too many secondary characters?
9. Do the names of my characters start with the same letter and confuse the reader?
10. Have I taken advantage of every opportunity to build sexual tension?


1. Is the word count appropriate for the line to which I intend to submit?
2. Have I used proper manuscript format for the intended publisher?
3. Are my pages numbered correctly?

© 1997, 2006 by Virginia H. McBlain. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.