The Complete Novel

We've heard it stressed about how important that first sentence is to hooking a reader.  We know the advice to refine the first five pages to make sure an agent, publisher, or reader won't be able to put our book down.  We know that the end of a novel will determine whether the reader was satisfied and will come back to read another of ours.  But what about everything that goes on in between?

Let's consider the first draft.  If you're like me somewhere along the way, probably mid-point around forty grand in or more, it may feel more like you're writing snippets.  After all, most of us don't write a novel in a day.  You may begin to be curious as to how the overall flow is so far.  Sometimes you might be tempted to go back and read it from the beginning.  But my advice:  keep moving forward!  Trust in yourself enough to know that you're following the story in logical progression.  If you go back, you could risk ruining something great.  Really, are not first drafts meant for getting your story out?  Edits are meant to refine, and perfect.

So after you've finished your first draft, do you pay as much attention to the meat of your novel as you do the first sentence, the first five, and the ending?  Or do you let the continuity wane, the characters flatten, the story-line conflict lessen.  If you do, then you've got some work to do.

Don't give your reader any excuse to put your book down.

We know that agents are looking for any reason to say no.  There are books for writers on this very subject.  Why give them a reason to pass, and say next?  The same is true with our readers.  There's only so much time in life.  When they sit down with your book, earn their readership.  Make your readers believe in you!

It's our job as the writer to hook our reader, and keep them hooked.

How do we do this?  Make sure your characters are engaging to your reader.  Ensure there is always conflict - ratchet it up, and release.  Toy with your readers, leave them wanting to know what's on the next page.  Make them wonder how things will ever work out.  Give them sleepless nights.

Of course, I'm not saying our books must be all action, but there must be forward momentum.  If a scene, at the stage of edits, doesn't move the story along or reveal pertinent characterization, lose it!

What about you?  What has been your experience in writing the meat in the first draft?  Are you tempted to go back and read up to the point you're at?  Maybe you have before - how did that turn out for you?


  1. I always have to re-read what I wrote before. I can't really 'see' what's coming next unless I have what I wrote before right in front of me. I read it and let the momentum carry me forward into the next line.

  2. Hey Carolyn, You know I think about this ALL the time and honestly, my best defense is my imagination. I outline my books first, and then I watch all the important scenes in my head. Sure, a book has to pull me along, but it's the key scenes that have to hit hard and keep me reading through the meat of the story. I also like seeing the full ARC of a story in my head, and I like writing it down on paper so that I know where the story is going ALL the time and I'll also know when and how to best surprise my readers. I'm a big fan of the shock value tactic in writing, and try to use it to my advantage. I'm not a big stickler for action, but then I guess it all depends on what kind of action you're talking about. I do write some of the hottest dirty sexy scenes. ;)

  3. I have never understood the people who claim they have trouble "slogging" through the middle. I have found that I have too many ideas for the meat of the story. Even after I have a solid outline, I'll think up other interesting things to throw into the story. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a matter of form fitting that idea into the story in such a way as to progress plot and/or character.

    Perhaps, my work turns into snippets as you said, but I've never had that complaint. Of course, I think most books are nothing but snippets these days simply because modern writing has eliminated the (admittedly annoying) abuse of exposition. I do like a little bit, but every time I try to put some in, I get called on it.

  4. Authorguy, it's great that works for you :) I just think if I did that I'd start editing before the story gave full birth.

    Rhinannon, ooh dirty sexy scenes? lol yumm (oops did I just say that)

    Trickbrown, it's not that I've ever had it turn out as snippets, but sometimes it can feel like it during the writing process. I've been fortunate it doesn't end up like that though :)

  5. I have a solid story planned usually when I start but sometimes surprises come when I'm writing an idea will come that glues the whole thing together,The important scenes I place myself in the main character and try to feel it all happening and go from there. And yes I go back and reread trying to make it all glue together as I go along.

  6. "Toy with your readers . . . Give them sleepless nights." I really love that! So I'll strive to do just that!


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