Checklists for Writers

Writing a novel is complex with many tasks. Checklists for writers offer simple approaches to completing your efforts. For instance, each list is brief and to the point, short enough to fit on a few pages. We take for granted that airline crews methodically check each function of the aircraft before each flight. Likewise, you can use checklists to analyze your writing.

Inspiration for using Checklists

Years ago I read an excellent book by Dr. Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (affiliate link). A MacArthur Fellow, a general and endocrine surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Gawande also leads the World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives program.

Besides medicine, the author cited many examples where simple checklists not only save lives, but ensure service and product excellence. This excerpt* from the book’s introduction sums up why we writers need checklists:

“Avoidable failures are common and persistent, not to mention demoralizing and frustrating, across many fields—from medicine to finance, business to government. And the reason is increasingly evident: the volume and complexity of what we know has exceeded our individual ability to deliver its benefits correctly, safely, or reliably. Knowledge has both saved us and burdened us.”

*Gawande, Atul. The Checklist Manifesto (p. 14). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Table of Contents

Download Checklists for Writers

Conflict & Tension Checklist

This quote from James Scott Bell emphasizes the importance of conflict: 

“We start to care about characters when trouble—or the hint of it—comes along, which is why, whenever I sign a copy of Conflict & Suspense, I always write, Make trouble!

The checklist includes definitions of conflict, tension, and suspense, and offers 60+ captivating ideas you can use to increase reader engagement.

And check out this post, What is the difference Between Conflict, Tension, and Suspense?


Deep POV Checklist

I love the way Jodie Renner, the author of Captivate Your Readers, summarized the power of Deep POV: 

“In deep POV, the author writes as the character instead of about him. The character and his world come to life for us as we vicariously share his experiences and feel his struggles, pain, triumphs, and disappointments.”

This checklist explains deep POV and defines third-person limited, giving you 12+ actionable ideas you can use to increase reader engagement.