Welcome! Please sit down, make yourself comfortable, and have a brownie or three...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

50 Things Your Manuscript Is Judged On

My heart candy poem thing sort of fizzled out when I realized the majority of the phrases were impossible to read. I was basically left with the phrases, "Get Real," "See Ya," and "No Way," which don't make for very encouraging poetry (although, it did make me think that rejections would be much sweeter if agents would just send us candy hearts like that).

Instead, I'm going to share a judging sheet from a Young Adult novel contest. I think most of these apply to all categories and genres, so hopefully the list will give you some things to think about. We're told time & time again that we've got one shot to impress, so here are a few things that the average judge/agent might be looking for.
At this point, many agents are so flooded with queries and partial/full submissions that they are looking for reasons to reject (not that they're not super-nice-friendly-awesome people, but when you're going through a pile of three-hundred, any reason to move on is a good one). Look over your manuscript, look over this list, and don't give them a reason.

*This sheet is based on people reading 5-10 chapters, so the synopsis is a little more important here (so that judges can have an idea of where the novel goes). That's why it has 10 points taken into consideration.*
*My apologies for any format issues...I love you Blogger, but you're not cooperating this morning :)
*I know this goes against the rule of "keep blog posts fairly short" and I promise not to do it often :)


[ ] 1. Is the entry presented professionally - in correct manuscript format?
[ ] 2. Does the entry follow required format of this contest?
[ ] 3. Are the grammar, spelling, and punctuation correct?


[ ] 4. Is the first chapter compelling? Is there an intriguing hook? Does it make you want to
continue reading?
[ ] 5. Does the author use the senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste) appropriately to create a
vivid experience?
[ ] 6. Does the author show rather than tell? Is the writing active and not passive? If passivity is used, is it appropriate for the scene and unobtrusive?
[ ] 7. Is the writing style clear and distinct with appropriate use of adjectives/adverbs?
[ ] 8. Is exposition presented in a believable and well-balanced manner?
[ ] 9. Do the scenes flow smoothly? Is the manuscript well-paced?
[ ] 10. Is the story told in a fresh, clear, and focused manner, without irrelevant digressions?
[ ] 11. Does the author present the work in a distinct style/voice?


[ ] 12. Does the book open at the right place, and does the opening reveal something
important and/or hint at the story conflict?
[ ] 13. Are the central character(s) introduced at an appropriate moment? Is this first
appearance believable and intriguing?
[ ] 14. Are the opening situation and introduction of characters presented in a clear manner, without
unnecessary confusion? If some information is withheld for suspense, is it done effectively?


[ ] 15. Is the protagonist recognizably young, and behave plausibly for his/her age, time, and culture?
[ ] 16. Is the central character/protagonist an active character? Do his/her actions affect the course of
the plot?
[ ] 17. Can you identify with the central character(s), even if he or she isn't sympathetic?
[ ] 18. Does he/she interact realistically with other characters?


[ ] 19. Are the other major characters all necessary to the story? Do they play essential roles?
[ ] 20.. Is each major character well-defined and distinctive?
[ ] 21. Do the actions of the major characters have an effect on the plot?
[ ] 22. Are their interactions with the central character plausible, given the ages involved?


[ ] 23. Do the motivations of the character(s) create genuine conflict, not contrived or forced?
[ ] 24. Is the conflict (or conflicts - internal/external) strong enough to carry a story of this type
and length?
[ ] 25. Are the goals of the central character established or foreshadowed?
[ ] 26. Do you see conflict rising in an effective way as the story goes on?


[ ] 27. Do the story events fit the Young Adult themes? Is this clearly a story aimed at younger readers
and not adults?
[ ] 28. Are the story events believable even if they are extreme in some way? Is the plot free of logic
[ ] 29. Does the plot promise to develop as a comprehensive whole, not just a series of
episodes without much linkage?


[ ] 30. Is there a clear sense of time and place, as perceived by a young person?
[ ] 31. Does the setting add depth and/or conflict to the experience and journey of the young

[ ] 32. Is the Point of View approach effective and appropriate for this plot and a Young Adult book?
[ ] 33. Does POV create empathy and understanding of the character(s) and a good vicarious
experience for the reader?
[ ] 34. Does the POV presentation enhance the story, such as by creating suspense, giving a unique
perspective on an event, creating an intriguing character voice, or increasing the level of


[ ] 35. Do the characters sound like real people? Are character voices consistent with their age,
education, gender, ethnicity, etc.? Is the dialogue appropriate for the time and place of the
[ ] 36. Does each character have a distinct voice that reflects his/her age and culture?
[ ] 37. Is the exposition (information transfer) in dialogue natural to the speaker and situation?
[ ] 38. Do the dialogue passages effectively use paragraph length, word choice, placement and type of
quote tags, punctuation, vocal idiosyncrasies (like sentence fragments, etc), action, and
introspection to create a conversation experience both inside and outside the quotation
[ ] 39. Does the dialogue move the story forward and cause plot change?
[ ] 40. Do the conversations between characters reveal and change their relationship?


[ ] 41. Is the synopsis presented in an acceptable format and does it clearly define the period,
situation, and locale of the story?
[ ] 42. Does the synopsis present a story of appropriate length and approach for a Young Adult novel?
[ ] 43. Does the synopsis tell the story in a clear chronological fashion, with the cause-and-effect
dynamic of events identified?
[ ] 44. Does the synopsis clearly show the actions of the major characters and how they affect the
[ ] 45. Does the synopsis answer all the questions the reader might have about the plot?
[ ] 46. Does the synopsis describe the conflicts and show how they rise in tension and
resolve in the end? Does the ending answer the story questions?
[ ] 47. Is there a presentation of the emotional cause and effect of story events?
[ ] 48. Are the characters, their motivations, and their conflicts clearly defined in the synopsis?
[ ] 49. Do transitions between events effectively link one event to another and promote the
ease of the reading experience and the coherence of the plot?
[ ] 50. Does the synopsis make you want to read the rest of the book?
See you on Friday!


  1. Jess,
    Hi! I'm following you from Rach's Crusade. I just dropped in to say HI and then found the wonderful list you have posted. Believe me, I copied it and gave you credit. Good stuff.

  2. Hello, fellow crusader. :) I'm a follower now. Great post! I love the part about agents sending candy hearts as rejections. :)

  3. Wow. What a great list! Thanks for passing it along!!

  4. jess! this is awesome! *saved* thanks!!!

  5. This is an excellent list! Thanks for sharing it. And hello from a fellow crusader.

  6. Hey there fellow crusader. This is an excellent list, full of things we should all remember when crafting our manuscripts. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Wow! Such a great checklist for ourselves when we are heading into revisions!

  8. Holy crap. That's a lot to digest in a single read, but I imagine extremely helpful information to know. Some of it may be common sense, but still, it's very helpful to see it all laid out like this.

  9. That would make a great check list to use in a critique group...and candy would help. Fellow crusader here, nice to meet you. Now following.


  10. Good Lord that's an awesome list - I'm going to print it out and check stuff off (or not) as I go!

  11. Great checklist and so useful to keep in mind. *needs to print it out and use it on manuscripts*

    Also, hello from a fellow crusader. :)

  12. This is awesome. I'm about to start submitting, thanks!

  13. This is so helpful! I should totally print this out and use it before I send anything out. Thanks! I also wanted to say hello as a fellow crusader...following you!
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  14. This is great! There are so many tiny details that are easy to overlook, but for writers, they all count.

  15. This is an awesome list, Jess. Thanks for sharing it! :)


  16. oh my goodness, what a great checklist!
    Thanks so much for posting this. Very helpful.


  17. Dropping in to say Hi and follow a fellow crusader. This is a fabulous list - although YA isn't specifically my genre, so much applies across the board, thank you.

  18. fellow crusader, and new follower! :)

  19. Wow, that's a big list. Thanks for sharing!

  20. This is a fantastic checklist! Words and info to live by for sure!

  21. Indeed, what a great checklist - daunting, maybe, but it will be very useful to me before I get around to submitting ;)

  22. This is a great list to have when doing revisions! Thanks!

  23. This list gave me a headache. I felt like checking it all off, I mean, dah, of course my dialogue rings true. Well, it damn well better. LOL

    But then I got thinking what we need to do, is use it in a critique group, then we might get results, just one section at a time. Because what if it doesn't all ring true? How would I know? Now you got me doubting myself... ;)
    Welcome to the crusade.

  24. Crusader stopping in for tea and cake. And what an excellent list! Totally useful when going back to edit. Again. And again.

  25. Fantastic checklist to use as a guide. Think I'll save this for future reference.

    Tossing It Out

  26. Really, this checklist rocks! Thanks for putting it together. I'm copying and pasting!

  27. This is fabulous information. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  28. Wow! What a great check list. I'm so glad to discover your blog.

  29. Conversation hearts seem like a MUCH better way to announce rejection! Thanks for this list - I'll have to bookmark it for when I FINALLY finish my YA fantasy novel. Someday. Within the next year.

  30. I saved this awesome checklist to my faves. Thanks so much for sharing! I look forward to getting to know another Crusader.


  31. Oh, great checklist! I have to make sure I hit all of these...

  32. This list is Awesome with a capital "A." Thank you, Jess.

  33. I love this check list! I could use this checklist while writing every manuscript. Thanks :) By the way, I think it would be awesome if agents were to send a candy heart rejection. A sweet disappointment.

  34. This is a great list!!!! Thanks for sharing.

  35. Yes, it's a vote for your favourite cover of the five shown. ( :
    Enjoy voting, and thanks!

  36. Thank you ever so much! I really appricate it!

  37. This is amazing. I'm going to bookmark it!

  38. Fantastic list fellow crusader!

    I hopped over from Rach's list and we put in the same group...

    So, it's great to meet you. Looking forward to getting to know you better.


  39. Whoa! Thank you SO much for taking the time to create this question list. I hope you don't mind if I add it to my other questions. Great to see that a fellow crusader loves writing so much!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

  40. I am bookmarking this page. I can't wait to go over it with fresh eyes.

    New follower and fellow crusader here!

  41. This is an awesome checklist!

    Thanks Crusader. :-)

  42. Wow, that is a long list! I'm gonna have to come back after following the other 5 bazillion (sorry, were there only 200 and something?) crusaders!

    xx Rach

  43. I have to print this and put it in my reference book. It is a nice summary of things to watch for. Thanks for the post. I am a old follower but new crusader.

  44. Hiya, buddy crusader! I'm making the rounds today and checking out your blog. Nice to meet you, and Happy Friday! :)

    What a great list!! I've saved it to use as a checklist for writing my novels. :)

    Artzicarol Ramblings

  45. Wow! Now that is a fantastic list!!! Bookmarked :)



  46. This an awesome list, especially for beta readers. Some of it's hard for me to judge on my own wip, but this way I can make sure I'm not saying "yes" when the answer is actually "no".

  47. Hello fellow crusader. This is a great list. I'm bookmarking it so I can read through again.
    Thanks for sharing.

  48. Awesome checklist! Thanks for posting this! I'm following over from Stina's blog, Seeing Creative. Happy to meet you!