The checklist


There are things you should know about your book – when it is all done.
There are questions you should have in your head – before you even start.


Where does the story begin?
Where does it end?
Why does your story start where it starts?
And end when it ends?

Is this an ironic story? Do things happen unintentionally? With consequences?
Is this a sad story? Do bad things happen to good people?
Is this a triumphant story? Does good triumph over evil?
Is this a messy story?
A melancholic story?
A tragic story?
A bittersweet story?
Is your voice the only moral compass?

How many chapters will it have?
Why will it have that many?
Why not one more?
Or one less?
How does each chapter depart from the previous one?
Why is each chapter singular or unique?
How does each chapter relate to that which came before?
How does each chapter reach forward to the next one?
Where does every chapter fit in your larger story?

Have you thought about your table of contents as a poem?
Does it read that way?
What kind of poem is it?

What happens in each chapter?
Does something change?
Does something emerge?
Is something solidified?
Does something get erased?
Or constituted?
Or memorialized?
Or institutionalized?
Or destroyed?
Or rebuilt?

Where does it all happen? Does this matter?
Why does it all happen? Does this matter?
Who makes it happen – or embodies its happening? Does this matter?
When does it happen? Does the timing matter?

Do you have evidence?
Where and how did you find it?
Did someone else use the same evidence to tell a different story?
Does your evidence support your telling of the story? Your argument, that is?
Did you footnote it properly?
If I wanted to trace your footnotes back to the original source, could I?
If I did that, what would I learn about you?
Did you, for instance, set some things aside in favor of others?

What do we learn from reading your book from front to back?
How does the story build over the chapters?
Do you prepare your readers for this plotline, this arc?
Are you sure?
Did you bury the lead?
Should you double check that?

Does each chapter prepare the reader for its own plot?
For sure?
Will they see all of this just as you do?
Have you tried to counter possible points of disagreement?
Have you tried your hardest to persuade?
Have you considered all the possibilities?
Have you looked at this from all the angles?

It is artful?
By someone other than yourself?

How did you discover this story?
Why are you the person to write it?
If you didn’t write this, where would we be?
If you are right, who is wrong?
Is it dangerous to put their names down in black and white?
Should you do it anyhow?
If you are right, who was right before you?
Shouldn’t you acknowledge that?
(Yes, you should).

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