Checklists don’t always come with the best connotation, but they are useful when completing a project on deadline. These checklists for writers are a great way to stay on top of every aspect of the writing journey so you can write and publish exceptional stories.
This Novel Template is where every project—whether fiction or nonfiction—starts to take shape. Even if it’s just a sparkling of an idea, I’ll start the process below with a working title and basic story description, typically to be flushed out later.
Everything I’ve outlined here can be replicated for free using project management programs such as Notion.so or Trello—though you can pay a nominal fee for upgrades and additional perks.
Checklists for Writers—My “Novel Template
List #1: The Quick Glance Items
- Synopsis—Which open changes between the outline and final draft.
- DUE Date to Editor—With the editor’s notes attached when I receive it back.
- Launch Date
List # 2 through # 4: My Kanban Board
These are what I treat as my traditional “Kanban boards”. I’ve created different “cards” associated with different phases of my writing and publishing process, and this helps compile the entire process and see everything from a bird’s eye view. If I click in to a card, I can also see the minute details.
Prewriting & Outlining
- Consider POV
- Consider Tense
- Consider Genre
- Create the Initial Bran Dump
- Outline the Story
- Build Out Main Characters
- Build Out Places, Cultures, Magic, etc.
Drafting & Self Editing
- Fast Drafting the Fist Draft (+ Start Date)
- 1st Read Through Post First Draft + Notes
- 1st Comprehensive Round of Self- Edits
- Complete Professional Developmental Edits
- Complete Professional Line Edits
- Complete Final Proofread + Let Sit
- Complete Second Personal Proofread
Beta Reader Process
- Advertise of Beta Readers
- Coordinate Timeline + General Practices
- Create Schedule + Send Out First Chapters
- Interview + Review Each Section
- Implement Additional Edits
- Consider Additional Round of Beta Readers
Professional Editing Plan
- Research Professional Editors
- Conduct Interviews + Choose an Editor
- Coordinate Schedule + Initial Deposit
- Developmental Edit (May Require More Than One Round)
- Line Editing (After Finalizing the Story)
- Proofreading (Final Pass)
Book Cover Design
- Conceptualize the Novel (Coming up with 3 descriptor words)
- Research Book Cover Designers + Coordinate Schedules
- Coordinate Deposit + Balance Payment
- Edits + Revisions of Cover Design
- Finalize Cover Designs + Final Proofs
Finalization + Formatting
- Write the Full Book Description
- Write the Back Cover Blurb (1-5 Sentences)
- Use Vellum to Format Book
- Implement Page Breaks + Headers
- Add Title Page, Copyright Page, etc.
- Include “Other Works”
- Buy/Assign ISBNs
- Finalize Title + Subtitle
- Determine Launch/Pre-Order Date:
- Set Retail + Bulk Prices
- Add meta, Categories + Synopsis
- Add Book Cover (Print + eBook)
- Upload Print + eBook
- Order Physical Proof Copies
- Add Early Reviews, About the Author, etc.
- Post Novel for Pre-Order
- Link Pre-Order to Author Central Account
- Set Up/Update Goodreads Account
- Add/Update Author Website + Social Media Links
- Write/Post 1+ Blogposts (on your author blog)
- Create 50+ Social Media Images (for this book)
- Create a Social Schedule for Sharing Images
- Research 10+ Book Bloggers (to help spread the word)
- Research 10+ Youtubers (to help spread the word)
- Research 10+ Podcasts (to help spread the word)
- Research 10+ (Professional) ARC Reviewers
- Guest Post on 5+ Different Blogs
- Create Book-themed Bookmarks
- Create Book-themes Merch (for your website)
- Create/Share a Book Trailer
Launch Week Marketing
- Keep in Contact/Coordinate with Bloggers, Youtubers, Podcasters, etc. and Share Their Content
- Up Your Social Media Campaign
- Host an Online Book Tour w/ Other Debuting Authors
- Host a Launch Giveaway (or several)
- Update ALL Links on Your Website, including Retailer Links
- Update your Email Signatures or Templates
- Hold Regular Giveaways
- Reach Out to Local Bookstores for Author Signings
- Reach Out to Local Bookstores to Stock Your Novel
- Donate Your Novels Around Town
*Further book marketing is still required.
As I complete different phases of the writing and publishing journey, I’ll move them from List #1 (OPEN) through to List #2 (IN PROGRESS) and finally into List #3 (CLOSED).
List #5: The Chapter Outline / Storyboard
This is fairly self-explanatory, but I create a digital outline so I can add to or change things on the fly. It also grants me access to my entire story outline at pretty much any time, making me able to write more words on the fly from anywhere I happen to be.
The thing about outlines is that they’re frequently updated throughout the writing process. The story you wrote in the first draft isn’t often the same in the final draft—which is a good thing.
A flexible, digital outline makes it easy to update and easy to reference (the most up-to-date version) at any time during your writing journey. It’s also a good reference when I’m writing the book descriptions.
List #6: The Character Profile
I won’t bore you with a play-by-play of my character profiles but having everything in one easy place is a great way to keep your characters organized. After I’ve created each character profile, I usually upload them as PDFs onto the card, so I can view it from my phone or computer, wherever I am.
That means I have everything at my fingertips, even if I’m writing in an airport, in a café, or in my car!
Some people may use Scrivener to do the same thing, but (a) not everyone has that program and (b) not everyone has that program for both their computer and mobile device. This is my go-to alternative.
List #7: Location Outlines
I treat these more like mood boards or story aesthetics, where I’m able to attach photos and specific stories or descriptions directly to the card associated with whatever location I’m building. Adding photos, links, and descriptions is easy and painless and it really lets me “visit” the location—so to speak—as I’m writing my story.
List #8: Background & Lore
Not every story needs loads of background and lore—but it’s always a good idea to have a space you can elaborate upon tidbits you discover about your world, even if it doesn’t fit into the story.
This is where I’ll write short—sometimes very short—stories or snippets about my world to help further flush it out. It’s not something I’ll likely include in the book, but it’s something I should know and understand as I’m writing. It’s something the characters can reference, even if the entire lore isn’t exposed.
Well, writer, there you have it. These different and wonderful lists are how I outline my stories and explore its characters and world, even before I’ve begun writing.
But while these are great launch points, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. Every story will need expert detail and different things you’ll need to explore and a detailed digital place you can access from anywhere is the perfect place to store it all.
So, what programs to I use?
I used to use Trello, but I’ve incorporated the same checklists above into Notion.so, which has quickly become my new favorite all-in-one digital workspace.