In rebuttal, the first thing that comes to mind is Anne Lamott’s iconic book Bird by Bird. At the outset, she argues that “perfectionism kills creativity.” She urges all aspiring writers of fiction to follow their heart, intrepidly out on their journey, keep forging ahead and write a lousy first draft with no thought given to the final result. By the same token, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously advised a young aspirant that it takes “the soul of a peasant” to plow ahead no matter what conditions you encounter. Before embarking, you could of course ask yourself if the trip was potentially going to be worth the candle—why here, why now and so what? All and all, however, it’s hard to imagine any creative person wanting to perfect some checklist of skills beforehand, sustained by a vague promise of success (whatever that means) plus an even more vague guaranty that this effort in the long run will “captivate readers.”
Instead, you might be far better off to take into account what inspired and sustained the making of one of your favorite books. Take Harper Lee’s beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. The setting (which isn’t even on Matt Bird’s checklist), namely that of Depression era 1930’s in Lee’s tiny home town Alabama, encompassing all that conjured up—bouts of racism, making due as a child with games like rolling around in a worn automobile tire, spending hours at the courthouse watching her lawyer father plying his trade, etc—continued to haunt her. And even so, the initial results of her “lousy first draft” was a series of vignettes. Still and all, underneath it all was the rich drive, authenticity and compelling memories which prompted an editor to guide her over the course of a year in New York to turn these vignettes and unique voice into a memorable narrative.
Needless to say, the examples of beginning with an enduring quest are too numerous to recount. As for Matt Bird’s itemized format, it couldn’t hurt to skim through the pages, note which ones may apply during moments when the story fails to come alive, try them out and see whether or not it makes a marked difference. Then again, you might be far better off taking a page from Harper Lee, and seeking out insightful editorial advice.