Write it Right, Part 2: Non-Fiction Checklist

Last week, I made a list of thirty-seven questions every fiction writer should ask herself before sending her novel out the door.  This week, I’ll do the same for non-fiction.  Whether you’ve written a how-to book, a business bible, or a parenting guide, here are thirty-seven ways to make sure your book is the best it can be before you show it to the world.

For the book as a whole, ask yourself:


-Is my book organized in a logical way?

-Does the order of chapters make sense?

-Do I know my key messages and have I expressed them clearly?

-Can I describe my book in ten words or less?

-Can I identify where my book would be shelved in a bookstore?

-Do I know my target audience?

-Have I tailored my language and writing style to appeal to this audience?

-Can I name other books that are similar to mine?

For each chapter, ask yourself:


-Does this chapter have a clear purpose?

-Does this chapter have a compelling title and subtitle?

-Have I communicated my key points clearly?

-Have I covered my subject in enough detail?

-Have I gone into too much detail?

-Have I included compelling anecdotes, examples, or facts?

-Am I confident about the points I’m making?

-Would I be willing to defend these points in a radio or print interview?

-Do the paragraphs flow logically?

-Have I eliminated vague language and run-on sentences?

-Is the style consistent throughout?

For the nit-picky details, ask yourself:

-Have I included accurate citations for my sources?

-Have I fact-checked my information?

-If I’ve quoted numbers or statistics, am I positive they’re accurate?

-If I’ve conducted interviews, am I positive I haven’t misquoted anyone?

-Have I checked the copyright laws about quoting from books, song lyrics, movies or TV shows?

-Do I hold copyright or have I gotten permission for any images or photographs used in the book?

-Have I gotten someone to proofread my work?

-Do I need a copyeditor to help me fix errors in grammar, usage, language and style?

-Is my manuscript formatted correctly?

-If there are charts or images, do they fit nicely on the page?

-Have I made an index or had it made by someone else?

-Are the fonts and font sizes consistent throughout?

-Are the key points boxed or highlighted? Should they be?

For the title, ask yourself:

-Does my title convey the book’s promise in the most effective way?

-Is my title vague, confusing, offensive, or awkward to say out loud?

-Will I regret this title when it’s time for radio interviews?

-Does my title speak to my target audience?

-Will my title make people want to read the back cover?



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