Friday, July 8, 2011

Important Questions to ask Ourselves while Writing

A writer is supposed to  be not just biased towards their own work, but also somewhat in love with the stories, characters and the world they have created. Therefore, it becomes difficult to be critical  about one’s own work. It’s like  we see a perfect baby: without a blemish or a flaw. And any judgement that emerges  is not accurate and will not help the manuscript.

That’s why it becomes important to have Critique Partners/Groups and Beta Readers. The entry of crit partners and readers comes later, definitely after we have completed the first few drafts.

What we can do to  become critical towards our work is ask ourselves  a list of questions. We can use these questions  not just for our own books, but, also while critiquing others stories and   also while reading a novel.

  1. Is the characterization original and rounded? Do the characters come across as fresh and  not venture into stereotype territory?
  1. Is the language used fresh, lively and uncliched? Has the writer tried to add  his/her own individual  style of writing into it?
  1.  Does the story work on its own terms? For instance, if there is a mystery or intrigue, does the author make us interested  enough to keep turning the pages and march ahead to the final unravelment?
  1. If there is humour, does the author invoke the laughter? How does the humour come across: contrived, situational or natural.
  1. If there is a world building, does it come across as believable, or is it looking too far fetched. Do we as readers believe in the world the author has created?
  1. Are the relationships in the story plausible? Do they strike a chord with us?
  1. Is the story straightforward and one-dimensional or  is it infused with layers and layers of meaning  that is keeping our brain cells ticking overtime while keeping a track of everything going on in the story.
  1. Is the dialogue original or stilted?
  1. Are there pages and pages of information overload? 

  1. Does the story grab our interest and is it able to sustain that level of interest throughout? Is there a way the story can be made more interesting?
After we make notes on each point, we get an entire new perspective on the story. This works well even while we critique someone else’s work. We will realize the areas the writer needs to focus on. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself when it comes to getting critical about your work? How do you judge your  own work or someone elses?


  1. That's a great checklist. I definitely have to pay attention to this, as I can completely lose objectivity around my own story.


  2. These are great checkpoints. Our work may seem brilliant to our eyes, but another perspective can be helpful to help us polish and submit. Thanks for sharing this list, Rachna. Have a great weekend! :)

  3. I def agree on having a good group of peers for feedback, but even creating this group is an art. A college professor in a creative writing class once gave me some good advice concerning conflicting feedback I got from some students...he said that regarding some of the people providing feedback "maybe they're not your target audience." This struck me as both wisdom and common sense, so I try to gather feedback from people that I would want to ultimately be fans of my books. Thanks for the cool post:)

  4. This is so true and I love all these questions. Outside eyes are crucial (and yours are wonderful since you've taken a look at my work)!

  5. @ Misha....I too have a bad tendency to lose objectivity when it comes to my stories.

    @ Karen....I look forward to my CP's feedback when it comes to getting another perspective.

    @ Mark.....I too believe that getting feedback from our target audience is a good thing. But, as I write MG fiction, I worry that I may not get a very accurate feedback from my target audience when it comes to plot points and character development.

    @ Saumya....Yes, outside eyes are indeed crucial.It was a pleasure reading your work. :)

  6. Important questions. I pay keen attention to relationships and their important in my characters' world.

    Dunno what I'd do without critique partners. They see the things I don't because I'm so close, the scales get stuck to my eyes.

  7. These are great questions, Ranchna. I'm in the process of revision, and asking these questions helps me decide which words to keep and which words to delete!

  8. Ah yes we are so protective of our creative babies. Great pointers you list in your post :O)

  9. Great list, Rachna! Like many of your posts, I'm bookmarking it. I'm on a revision now -- or will be again when my foot allows me to be back on the job. When I'm up and abourt, I'm printing off your questions for use on my revision and for critiquing my group submissions.

  10. Great list, and helpful reminders of things to ask. Thanks for outlining them. A question I also ask is whether or not the voice is right--and that's a tough one to answer!

  11. I like the list; and yes, I ask myself many of these questions throughout the writing. Of course, being my biggest fan, I see my creation through biased lenses, I'm sure.

    which is why I appreciate my crit partners, both from the ftf group and online. I don't believe I can have too many eyes looking at my ms in the beginning phases.


  12. The list is useful, both for what it suggests and for orienting our thoughts in that direction, making us more aware of issues that perhaps we should be confronting. Excellent post.

  13. Such fine checkpoints but in spite of them a writer is biased towards his own baby. That is why critics are so important.

  14. @ your idea of paying attention to the relationships in your stories.

    @Julie....I too am revising my WIP. Hopefully I will be able to do justice to it.

    @ Madeleine..... we writers are protective and possessive of our creative babies.

    @ Elizabeth....glad the questions will help you with your revisions.

    @ Kenda....yes...voice is a very important element.

    @ Donna...I too am my biggest fan...I think I fall in love with my stories and characters.

    @ Dave and Alka...its extremely important for us writers to be critical towards our work. Thank God for Crit Partners.

  15. Fabulous checklist. I think it is very hard for a writer to stand back from their work and ask critical questions, which is where crit-partners, beta-readers, and great editors come in!

  16. I don;t really have a set of parameters a writer needs to meet for me to like their books. I guess it can be subjective. I do like complexity to my stories and an amazing setting for the backdrop. I think one of the reasons Harry Potter is so popular is the setting of Hogswart and the culture clash of the Muggle world.

  17. I don't have a list of questions, but I'm definitely going to use these. Thanks for sharing! :D Writers can be critical of their own work, but there's always something wrong they won't admit.

  18. What a FABULOUS list of questions, Rachna. Keepers, for sure, as these are reminders even WHILE we are writing of all the things we need to keep good track of. Another post that I'll be sending out to the Twitterverse!

  19. What an excellent list! I keep this in mind with my own writing and *hope* that I stay on target!

  20. Great list, Rachna. It makes me re-discover why writing a book feels so overwhelming. If a writer tries to do all these activities in a first draft, they won't ever accomplish anything. They'll stay in draft limbo forever because it IS an overwhelming amount of work. Small steps. Small, incredibly important steps will get the job done.

  21. Awesome list of questions, Rachna! Thanks for this.

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  23. I don't necessarily agree with questioning a novel while I am reading it for entertainment. I remember seeing the new Clash of the Titans movie and I hated it. Here was a half-god who was dead set on doing things as "men". Soon he is jumping out of scorpions, killing gorgons and defying the gods after 30 seconds of sword lessons all the while the "men" in the movie all die. I have watched it again and turned off my critique brain and its not all that bad. When I read for entertainment that is what I want it to be, not actively looking for problems.

    You have an excellent list there and I think I may come up with a similar list to give beta readers of my next book to garner better and more feedback from them.

    For myself I think this list of questions would be best reviewed at the outline stage. I find it best to have the elements taken into account on the ground stages of development.