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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 character’s 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 backstory)?
  • Does the dialogue sound natural?
  • Are there places where the author uses dialogue to fill the reader in to important information info dump)?

Overall Impressions

  • 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 a 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 seem 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)