Scene editing checklist

I finished reading “Story Engineering” a few days ago, and have been trying to digest it all since then.  One of the things I have done is adapt the scene checklist that he presents.  I have tweaked it to work better for me.  This is what I fill out, in full, for each scene of each chapter.  I find that it helps remove the unneeded fluff.  At least I hope so.  I guess I will know for sure once the crits start rolling in on the new version of chapter 1.  It did reduce the word count by about 800, anyway.


What is the primary piece of story exposition in this scene?

Does that information move the story forward, or is it a side trip?

Does the new info require any foreshadowing or setup from prior scenes?

Does the scene open with something clever, poignant, surprising, or interesting?

What is the precise moment – in action, dialog or other narrative context – at which the scene’s payoff will be exposed?

What is the latest moment you can enter the scene without compromising the info or the potential for a dramatic experience in the delivery?

Does the scene have its own tension and stakes and flow?

What is the reader experiencing — feeling, understanding, clarifying, or other emotion — as the scene unfolds?

Is the tension built leading into the payoff? If it is hidden, is the reader set up to make the revelation as jarring as possible?

how are you demonstrating character in the scene? Is characterization driving the exposition (goal is to show something about the character) or is exposition driving the character(goal is to show the character’s reaction)?

Is the scene efficient? Does it drive gracefully and fluidly toward its payoff moment or does it mark time needlessly?

Does the ending transition align with the mission and context of the next scene? Is it consistent with earlier transitions?

Have you avoided redundant or unneeded description?


Does any of this look helpful to you?  Do you have any checklists you use to keep you focused?





Filed under Uncategorized

6 responses to “Scene editing checklist

  1. That does look helpful. When you’re done why don’t you share an example from a story chapter? I like examples-gives me something more concrete to work with. Do you have an even newer version of chap one up? Or did I get that one?

    Thanks for posting your editing journey. I like to see how other people figure things out. I keep hoping something will rub off on me eventually 🙂

  2. Hey, Andrew, with all the writing tools I’ve been collecting recently you’d think I’d be all over checklists like this, but this kind of approach is virtually uncharted territory for me. I’m a big fan of outlines and various pictorial devices to get my plots straight, but the writing itself is done pretty much without any kind of artificial aids. Ain’t that strange?

    This is a fascinating insight into just how much there is still to learn about this mysterious art we call “writing”. Thanks.

  3. I do have a new version of Chapter 1 in my queue. I will find a sample scene and show the before and after, as well as why I cut what I did. Give me a few days though…


  4. Wow, that’s a lot of stuff I don’t even consciously consider. To me a scene is just – write, read, scrunch face in displeasure, tweak, scrunch face more and continue tweaking until it fits right. Then consider the point of the scene and maybe end up deleting. Should actually use some of these questions 🙂

  5. Pingback: Next pass: Efficiency and effect | J Andrew Jansen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s