Checklist for Critiquing a Novel
- Does your story begin with some sort of conflict—either internal or external?
- Does the beginning set up the bigger “conflict” of the entire novel, the issue that drives your protagonist toward his/her end goal?
- Is your protagonist conflicted or is embroiled in some external conflict?
- Are there too many conflicts going on in the book? Too few?
- Is there an overarching conflict present in the story that is key to the premise and grows to a climax and resolution?
- Does your protagonist face one conflict or obstacle after another (each worse than the previous) that force him/her to have to make a tough decision(s)?
- Does the conflict serve the interest of the story or is it just thrown in the book for excitement?
- Does the overall plot come across clearly in the novel?
- Is the plot goal for the book laid out from the start and does it resolve at the end of the book satisfactorily?
- Are there subplots in the book that work with the main plot? Are they also resolved?
- Are the setting, locale, time of year, date, etc., clearly and consistently developed?
- Is it easy to follow the passage of time from scene to scene?
- Are the scenes strung together in a cohesive fashion and drive the plot?
- Are there scenes in the book that do not serve the plot and don’t seem to have a point?
- Is the plot interesting and engaging? Are the themes and issues touched on in the plot universal elements that readers will relate to?
- How does the pacing of the story feel? Does the book drag in spots due to excessive narration or from uninteresting scenes?
- Is the writing over-wordy or vague, slowing down the pace of the scenes?
- Are sentences too long and/or repetitive?
- Are the scenes moving at a good clip to keep interest or do they need trimming?
- In faster action scenes, does the pace speed up with shorter sentences and paragraphs?
- Is tension created at the outset of the book?
- Is the protagonist compelling enough to heighten tension by the reader caring about him/her?
- Are scenes adeptly left hanging in order to create tension?
- Are elements/clues/details needed to propel the story presented in a way as to invoke tension (make the reader keep reading)?
Setting and Locales
- Does the author portray a believable, interesting setting that draws the reader in?
- Does the setting seem to fit the mood and serve the plot?
- Are there too many or not enough (or too repetitive) locations in the book?
- Are any locations boring or not good choices for the scene?
- Does the author spend too much time describing the setting? Not enough?
- Is the setting portrayed through the eyes of the characters or presented in flat narrative?
Point of View (POV)
- Is the overall POV of the book consistent?
- Is there only one POV character in each scene and is their “voice” distinct from all other POVs?
- Are there any scenes told in a POV that would be better in another POV? (if multiple POVs in the book)
- Does the author do a good job getting into the head of the character(s) or do they tend to tell rather than show what he/she is thinking or feeling?
- Does the writing style seem fresh, original?
- Does the overall tone and style of the writing work well for the story?
- Does the author’s voice come across unoriginal or derivative?
- Does the writing have too many clichés or sound like the author is trying to impress his/her audience with complex words or sentences?
- Is the protagonist clearly presented and the major character in the plot?
- Is the protagonist sympathetic from the start?
- Are the characters rich and developed or flat and stereotypic?
- Do the characters behave and speak consistent with their backgrounds and upbringing?
- Does each character have depth—a past, a need, a fear, a dream—and are these brought out clearly in the story?
- Do the secondary characters enhance and enrich the protagonist’s story?
- Is there too much or not enough description of the characters? Is the description shown from the eyes of other characters and not just “told” by the author to the reader?
- Are there too many characters or too much time spent on secondary characters that detracts from the main plot of the story and the focus on the protagonist?
- Does the protagonist have a clear character arc that shows growth/change/decision/resolution to the end of the book?
- Does each characters’ speech and style of talking fit their personality?
- Is there too much or not enough dialogue?
- Is the dialogue stiff? Uninteresting? Too wordy?
- Are there places where dialogue is unnecessary filler and accomplishes little to reveal character or advance the plot (or reveal back story)?
- Does the dialogue sound natural?
- Are there places where the author uses dialogue to fill the reader in to important information info dump)?
- Does the book work? Does it hold together overall? Does the premise make sense and is it engaging?
- Is this a book with enough universal themes or topic that would draw in readers?
- Is the idea/premise of the book original enough to draw interest?
- Does the book feel too long or too short? Are there scenes that seem to be missing and what are they?
- Does the book have a theme or point that is well delivered or does it seems to be missing any point at all?
- Is the theme worked into the book and brought out in the title and opening and closing chapters?
- Are all the plot points satisfactorily resolved at the end of the book?
- Does the reader get a sense of completion and resolution at the end of the book or is the ending vague, confusing, or dissatisfying?
- Is it clear what audience the author is writing to or are there problems (for example, a book written for young adults that might be too technical or sophisticated for their age group, or too much sex or violence that may be inappropriate)