The Little Details Checklist

There’s so much to keep on top of when writing a book that it’s easy to forget the little details, like what your characters are wearing or what movie they saw on the first date with their love interest.

While you might think such things aren’t super special to know, or that you wouldn’t let them slip past you, it’s the little details that fill in your book world. Keeping track of them is important, especially when you’re on draft eleventy and have read the story so many times that everything has blurred together.

Luckily, there is a way you can make sure you don’t leave out the little-yet-important details, and it’s with the help of this checklist!

The Little Details Checklist

To get the full benefit of this checklist, your manuscript should be at the final draft or close to it. Have it in front of you, either printed out or on screen, and get out a notebook (not the fancy one, of course!), a scrap of paper, or your fave note-taking app or program and write these checklist headings on their own page:

  • Unanswered Questions
  • Who Knows What?
  • Character Fashion
  • Callbacks
  • Loose Threads
  • Reader Reminders
  • Secrets

Now, as you read through your MS from start to finish (yes, yet again), keep an eye out for the elements of this checklist during each scene, and then, under each heading, jot down the details.

Unanswered Questions

This is, of course, for unanswered questions, those page-turning nuggets of info, off-handed comments, seeds of doubt, and dialogue bombshells that spark a question in the reader’s mind, one that they’ll want an answer to.

Scour your scenes for these questions, and when you come across the answers, write them down too. By the last page of your MS, each question should have been answered with satisfaction, or enough info that an answer will be forthcoming in a future book if you’re writing a sequel or a series.

If you haven’t answered the question, or this check has brought to light that your unanswered question and its answer are weak, make a note so you can fix it with your next edit.

Who Knows What?

This is where you will keep straight who knows what.

Let’s say, for example, that your MC tells his girlfriend he was totally at his best friend’s house studying when he was really at her best friend’s house ‘studying.’

Keeping straight that MC’s girlfriend and his best friend don’t know about the cheating, but that the MC and the girlfriend’s best friend do, is the type of info you’ll need to know to either hide or reveal the affair.

Your story might not have such a scandalous twist, but if it has any type of info that only certain characters know and others don’t, pop it down on this checklist.

Having an easy, at-a-glance reference to the ins and outs of who knows what will help you keep track of things, and ensure any truth bomb reveals or just old-fashioned, this character can’t/doesn’t know this info at this point in the book, doesn’t get messed up and cause confusion for you or your future readers.

Character Fashion

Unless the fashion of your characters is integral to the plot of your book, it’s easy to make up what someone is wearing and then forget what you wrote for the next three drafts.

What characters wear adds a realness to them and your book world, so it is one of those little details that can make a big impact.

They might change outfits many times, but even if it’s only once, or not at all, if you’ve mentioned your MC’s penchant for blue jeans and side character 2 and 3 wearing the same color dress, put it down here.

You’ll thank yourself when editing the final draft a year after writing the first and you need to reference everyone’s clothes again without having to comb through thirty chapters to find the descriptions.


One fun writer’s trick to add to your novel is calling back to something already mentioned.

Whether it’s the love interest’s favorite song, a parent reminding the MC of a childhood toy, or an inside joke mentioned at the start of the book that can then break the tension in a closing chapter, you can amp up the nostalgia for both your readers and the characters with a well-placed callback.

To do this, use this checklist heading to write any tidbit, character quirk, or memory that you want to reference later, or something you think will be worth referencing later.

That way, when you need a final emotional heartstring pulled, a shared joke between friends brought back up, or a line of dialogue repeated to drive home a point, you’ll have a handy list of callbacks to draw upon.

Loose Threads

This checklist item is for anything you come across in your read-through that needs to be addressed by the end of the story or removed for clarity.

You may have accidentally cut out the package arrival of a certain item during the great cull of draft 5 and are now scrambling to explain why the villain conveniently has what they need to foil the MC. You may have mentioned an annoying sibling in a throwaway line during draft 2 as you were working out the story, and hadn’t noticed until this read-through that they are still mentioned then, but never again.

Use this checklist section to get a running list of any loose threads so that any left dangling can be cut, sewn into place, or left appropriately hanging.

Reader Reminders

Sometimes in your story, you’ll need the readers to remember something specific.

It could be that your MC is allergic to peanuts right before he’s about to be fed peanut-laced food, or that the murder victim wrote the password to his laptop on the back of a takeout menu. It’s information that the reader needs to know but is often something you’ll foreshadow early, or only once.

A reminder is usually needed closer to the twist or reveal so you can nail your payoff, so note down any reminders that readers will need, and then check that they’re either in place or plan where they need to be placed within your plot.


If your book is full of secrets, you’ll most definitely need an easy way to keep track of them—cue the final checklist item—secrets!

Under this heading, put down what the secret is, when it’s hinted at, when it’s revealed, and who knows what and when. Trying to keep track of secrets can be a confusing business, and if the secret is a game-changing revelation, you don’t want to mess it up.

Like all the other little details on this checklist, getting something like this right will help make your book the best it can be, so use this checklist to perfect the little details, and see it naturally enhance your big book moments, too.

— K.M. Allan

Find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

23 thoughts on “The Little Details Checklist

  1. Wonderful, Kate! I really believe the little details make an enormous difference in the quality and readability of a story. They also assure the reader that you, the writer, are serious about your work and can be counted on the next time, and the next, to entertain them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s a great way to keep track of things 😊. I currently use the notes panel in Scrivener, but I’ve only started doing that with my latest WIP. I wish I’d done it with the three before it. I might not be so lost on the little details now 🤣.


  2. Whew–great post! I often find it amazing how much info fiction writers–and especially those who write series, like you–keep in their heads. So, I don’t feel so bad when I can’t find my kids’ shoes (because I definitely know where my characters’ shoes are).

    Liked by 1 person

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