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Sometimes, or maybe often, we get caught up in our writing and lose track of all the aspects that make up good writing. Sometimes we run down these bunny trails or get stuck in a rat hole, and we don’t know how to get back on track. Personally I often find myself mesmerized by what I’ve written. I like the main message, but the delivery is just all over the place. There’s too much of some things, not enough of others, the writing is brutish, there’s no tension or all tension, I’m telling everything, and there is either almost zero detail or it’s bogged down in crap.

This morning I worked on a scene. I’d told the outcome. It was thin, uninteresting, and unbelievable. It bothered me, but I don’t think I wanted to admit it was wrong. It had been there in my story since November, had been edited many times, and the over all sentiment belonged. When I addressed it today, I felt the emptiness, the void. I revamped it. I re-wrote the empty parts.

I’m happy with my result, but we know that will likely change. But the story moved forward and became a little deeper. I straightened out the emotional imbalance that had bothered me, resolved it really. I think I feared resolution before; because, well, resolving anything at page 100 is not usually a good sign for a story. As I wrote it, though, I realized this wasn’t the final resolution. I wrote the main theme of the story in one word, and that word told me this resolution was only a prelude to the plot’s resolution. Make sense? Too bad. I’m writing for me today 😉

After I finished I decided to jot down all the questions I asked about this scene, all the decisions I made. I realize I need to make such decisions all the time. Would it hurt to draft a checklist? Would it hurt to formally ask such questions of all my writing?

Editing yes, but writing? I haven’t sold myself on that point. I’m not writing this blog to a checklist.

I have used checklists before. I often refer to a copy of C.J.Cherryh’s Writerisms and Other Sins: A Writer’s Shortcut to Stronger Writing. This document has helped many a writer with their work. I’ll sometimes go through each item one by one and search my document for items: “was,” “ing,” and “ly for example.

Today’s new checklist, the questions I asked about my writing, look like this.

Are you following the scene or sequel outlines; do they satisfy all requirements of a good scene?
Does the writing flow; is it consistent?
Are you showing or telling?
Is there appropriate tension?
Are you saying too much or not enough?
Would details hurt or help?
Do I need more or fewer events?

I suggest you first write your story creatively. We need to let our juices flow freely. Such lists can hinder creativity. But when it comes down to polishing your work, that creative gem you wrote needs some serious attention to make it really shine.

Try a check list.