Now that you’ve finished your first draft it’s time to consider what follows. Before a story is complete, it will go through many stages, each draft resulting in revisions and rewriting. Use this checklist to do an overall big picture critique of your work.
Take each story element below and move through the entire story. Ask and answer the questions below. Make notes of where you have opportunities for improvement. After completing the list and making any necessary rewrites and revisions consider giving this list to a beta reader and asking them to read your story answering the same questions.
Consider how you have brought their personalities to the page.
Do we get a clear sense of your ancestor’s character, strengths, and weaknesses?
Identify details, actions, speech that you have used to enhance the sense of character for your ancestor.
Consider how you have used the fictional writing tool of scene.
Is each scene fully delivered? Any missed opportunities?
Any parts of the story that would be better enhanced by the use of scene?
Is this the most effective order of scenes?
Are the important events in the story shown not told?
Are the sentences in the scene active?
Are there parts of the story that stall the storyline or have no purpose?
Are there any parts that could be expanded?
Consider if the meaning of the story is evident to the reader.
What is the meaning of the story?
Where in the story is theme layered into the story?
Have you used any symbols, motifs to support your theme?
Is the theme layered in the subtext or is it preached to the reader?
Have you kept your reader’s attention with the use of tension?
Is there tension in the story?
Where does the tension in the story lie?
Do the endings of your scenes and chapters leave your reader eager to turn the page?
Are there any tensions left unresolved?
Does the setting ground the story for the reader?
Is the setting expressed with sensory detail?
Does the setting enhance the reader’s understanding of the story?
Is time managed well in the story?
Is the time of the story clear to the reader?
Do scenes cover only a single moment of time?
Are transitions from one time to another handled well?
Is there varying periods of time, where the reader get’s lost.
Does dialogue enhance the story?
Does the dialogue inform the reader, offer characterization and move the story forward.
Is the dialogue in tune with the ancestor’s voice and who they are?
Is there any dialogue that doesn’t ring true or seem believable? Forced?
Too much dialogue?
Too little dialogue?
Is there an emotion thru-line in the story.
What is the emotional state of the ancestor at the beginning of the story?
In the middle?
At the end?
How is the ancestor changed?
Is the emotion in synch with the movement of the story?
How does the first line, the opening paragraph prepare readers for what the story will be about?
What promises does it make to the reader?
Does the story deliver on the promise of the opening?
What evidence of the theme is found at the opening?
Does the ending bring satisfaction to the reader?
In what way does the story come full circle?
Is the ending satisfying?
Are there any questions left unanswered?
CLARITY OF THE PROSE
Do the sentences say what you mean?
Any awkward sentences, paragraphs?
Are there grammatical errors, misspellings?
Is there awkward language or metaphors that don’t work?
Is it effective? Appropriate?
How could it be better?
Does it reflect the theme?
Your story will go through multiple rewrites before you are ready to share it with the world. This is writing and all part of the process. Don’t rush the process take the time to make sure you are delivering exactly what you intended, a story that will entertain, education and inspire your family for generations to come.