After churning out a draft, all I have to do is take a quick whiz through, looking for the following . . .
Is there specific detail? What type of knife was it? But the detail needs to be relevant, i.e revealing of character.
Have I used my eyes, ears, fingers, nose and tongue against the concrete? All of the senses.
Is that Bellow-like list of juicy, stimulating, delightful adjectives justified? Should I shun the adverb? Must I delete that florid passage?
Sickening pet words
Have I allowed those sickening repeats? For me it's moment, moment, moment (and sickening, sickening, sickening). And a whole lexicon of others in a sickening word document for searching.
Would she really say that? Why doesn't he simply call the police? Is she just doing that to help me out of a plot problem?
Why do I show that and tell that? Mostly show. Have I shown the key action?
Does it have conflict? Does it have subtext? 'You're looking nicely dressed today.' Does it reveal character? Never the hideous info dump - just saying it to let the reader know.
Is it abbreviated and truncated like speech? Do different characters have different vocal patterns?
Can I hear the rhythm and flow of the words. Read it aloud.
What is the order of revelation of the story. Does it hold the reader? Mystery = what happened? Suspense = what's going to happen?
Can you bear to keep your nose out of it? (I can’t). At least try to put it into the character.
How does the time pass? Do I skip the right things? Does it have to be linear?
Is the setting another boring pub? Does the setting reflect or affect the characters or the action? Pathetic Fallacy.
Is this someone the reader will want to spend hours to discover? – does the reader give a shit what happens to him?
Does this cut deep? What am I avoiding? What should I really be writing about?
Metaphor and metonym – are they fresh? Do they serve a purpose beyond showing off? Do they defamiliarise or make tangible the otherwise ineffable?
Did I give cliché a wide berth? Also stock phrases (they're harder to spot). Have I fallen into elegant variation? (Don’t travel too far the alternative route!)
Do I tell them what they already know or can guess? Do I withhold information without good reason or for too long, especially in POV1.
"Do you understand what he is saying to you?" (Buck Mulligan) You don’t have to spell it out straight away – make the buggers work. Jose Saramago – telling the reader things that are obviously untrue – a letter Richard Reis would never open.
Would she really think of her own leg as shapely?
Is it unique to the setting or the character, not just taking another drag on a cigarette. What does it reveal?
Was there too much was? Can I make the construction active. There were trees along the roadside - trees stood guard along the road.
Categories of noun
Are they too abstract? According to John Braine, there are three categories of word: Freedom (bad), animal (fairly bad), dog (good), although labrador would presumably be better.
What happened to that minor character I introduced? Knead them back into the dough later as subplots that resolve before the main story.
Break any and all of the rules, so long as you know them. Anything goes, so long as it's deliberate. Not necessarily deliberate at the time of shitty first drafting, but consciously approved by the author at some point.
I'm sure you can think of a hundred others that I miss out when I'm editing. It's also worth saying, before someone makes the point, that the deconstruction is only for the blog. I'm striving for the stage when I simply read and know, no longer in need of lessons, intuitively taking account of everything in the world.