The list below of things to do after writing each chapter of your novel came about because I’ve edited nine novels now, and learned from personal experience that they would all have been easier to edit if I’d done everything on the checklist before continuing to write the next chapter. I’ve gotten timelines mixed up, character names mangled, forgotten whether it was spring, summer, or fall, left out sensory input where it would have worked brilliantly, and used “was,” “a while,” and other pet words way too often. Following the checklist should only take a few minutes and will make your first full run-through edit a lot less painful. See what you think. I only wish I’d done it for all my books, including my latest:

clutteredatticsecrets-08After each chapter is written:

1. Read it over and make minor changes and to refresh your memory.
2. Make a chart (word processing table or spreadsheet) with columns for Chapter Number, Day of Week, Time, Location, and Outline (synopsis).
3. Nail day of week, time of day, and location, put on chart.
4. List all new characters on another chart with first name, last name, and description so you can sort by first/last name to be sure not too many characters have similar names or begin with the same letter. Usually I do a small description of characters as they’re introduced, so I often just copy and paste the description into that column. If later on I mention something else about the character (eye color, make of car, for example), I put those details into that column, too.
5. Have yet a third chart to list names of businesses. My current novel has a made-up museum, funeral parlor, theater, and restaurant. It’s easy to forget many chapters later what I made up. It’s just two columns—name of business, and what it is. It won’t take you much time at all to add anything to it.
6. Check that senses other than sight are included–smell, hearing, touch, taste.
7. Find and replace your frequent words, for example, “was,” “that,” etc.
8. Check for your own personal demons—lack of description, echo words, tags missing making conversations confusing, mixed-up names, character positioning, and so on.
9. Do a final spell check.
10. Save your day’s work on your computer and back it up (I do that on the cloud).
11. Write the outline/synopsis for your chart.
12. In your notes file, (you have a notes file, right? With maps, research, anything else related to your particular project. I put these two charts in that file, always open when I’m writing the novel) list anything you want to cover later on, and any good ideas you have for later action. This is especially important if you are not an outliner, and it can help prevent writer’s block.

Your future self will thank you later for doing all this. So will your editor. Anyone have any tips to add to the list?


“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

This year marks the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the first printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderful, commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland.

“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”

The late rabbitWhen I was about five, my mother read me both the Wonderland book and the Looking-Glass one, and I loved them so much, I begged her to read them over and over again.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

But until this year, I never checked into the background of how the Wonderland book came to be written. I thought I’d share some of the interesting facts I found out about the author and the book here.

“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Mad Tea PartyFirst, probably a lot of people know that Lewis Carroll is a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but I didn’t. Or that he based a lot of his characters on real people and places, even images. Because he stuttered, he said his last name Dodo-Dodgson, and thus the dodo bird in the book was created. The rabbit hole was probably a symbol for the stairs, called the rabbit hole, in the back of the main hall in Christ Church where Mr. Dodgson was a mathematician.

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”

Just AliceMr. Dodgson first told many of Alice’s adventures to three little girls on a boat ride with their father, Henry Liddell. Lorina Charlotte, aged thirteen at the time, Alice Pleasance, aged ten, and Edith Mary, aged eight. They loved the stories so much, he later wrote them down, expanded on them, did his own illustrations, but later hired an illustrator, John Tenniel. The first draft was 15,500 words, but then he added more material such as the Cheshire cat and the Mad Hatter tea party (one of my favorite scenes) and it became 27,500 words.

“Curiouser and curiouser!”
“Off with their heads!”

Red QueenThe author had a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and affects the size of visual objects, which can make the patient feel bigger or smaller than he is. This of course became a major part of the book. The disease is now often called the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

I have to say that Mr. Dodson’s life was almost as fascinating as his stories. Happy Anniversary, Alice!

As the Cheshire Cat said, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” And now you know why I love to read and write. What is your favorite book? What was the first book you remember being read to you or that you read yourself?