What is a Fiction Writing Rubric?

What the heck is a fiction writing rubric, you ask?

Well, I consulted the trusty dictionary again, because while I understand the word myself, I'm not so hot at giving a great definition. What I found surprised me a bit, so I'll share.

Which Shoe Fits?

Definition one: From Middle English (meaning English spoken during the period from 1066 to 1470, or thereabouts), rubric means "red ochre", and was the name of the heading in red letters of a part of a book.

Definition two is: an authoritative rule. Okay, that one works well for fiction.

Number three is a rule of conduct of a liturgical service (religious service). This one doesn't count here.

Definition four: title of a statute. Again, not to do with fiction.

Definition five: something under which a thing is classed (i.e. category). Well, it's related, but probably not what we're looking for.

Number six: an explanatory or introductory commentary. Again, like the headings definition, this one fits, but is unlikely to be what we want.

And last but not least: an established rule, tradition or custom. Much like the authoritative rule above.

So, seven definitions in the dictionary. When I "Google" fiction writing rubric, I see also it is now defined as a scoring guide used to evaluate a student's performance, based on a range of criteria, rather than a numerical score.

Okay, which one do we move forward with? Clearly, we have a few choices that fit into fiction.

While students might get a lot out of being scored on their fiction in school, I doubt I can give that sort of feedback to my readers on this site. So instead, let's look at how you should evaluate your own novel writing so you can understand where you need to improve.

An Authoritative Rule

If there's any overriding fiction writing rubric, as in a rule of fiction writing, I would have to say it's creating as complete a world as possible within the pages of your book, and making sure that creation is written in language your readers understand.

So, in order to evaluate how you've done, I suggest you share your work with someone who reads in your genre. Ask them if the characters seem lifelike. Do they have both a physical appearance conveyed through the book and characterization, or personality?

Same goes for your plot. Have you adequately addressed both the "what" and the "why" of your characters' actions? Are there any parts where the reader gets lost or is confused? Do your characters have motivation to do what they do?

Don't forget setting. Your timeframe should be clear, and so should the place or places the novel happens in. Confusion on the part of your reader means you don't get a passing score and you need to revise.

You might also want to study how well you've put your novel together. Does it flow from one scene to the next without stumbling? Does it leap right off the first page and drop you unequivocally at the end?

Again, if any of these items are not well addressed, it may be time to go back and revise. Don't feel you must start over. Just tighten the spots that aren't quite there.

Soon, you'll have the highest grade you can get: happy readers.

A Fiction Writing Rubric For You

For your convenience, I've created a fiction writing rubric for novels. It's longer than anything I found searching the web, but then novels are long works and should be evaluated more closely.

Use the thirty questions to evaluate how you've done plotting, setting, character-creating and structuring your novel. Try to be objective (or let someone else be objective for you). You can't improve if you refuse to see the weak spots. And everyone has weak spots, even long-time pros.

Hope this helps you with your next novel!

Download your free novel writing rubric.

NOTE: You will need Adobe Reader (the latest version is recommended) installed on your computer in order to open and view or print these files. You can get Adobe Reader here (a new window will open so you can download without leaving this page).

If you want to open the file in your browser window, you can just click on the link. However, if you want to download the file to view later, then right click on the link and choose "Save Target As" or "Save File As." Then select where you want to save the file on your hard drive.

Once you have saved the file, locate where you saved it, and double click to open.

In order to print, open the downloaded file, and select the "Print" option from your menu.

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