Your job as a novelist is to entertain your readers. Enlighten them, sure. Wow them with beautiful sentences, yes. Give them something to think about, someone to relate to, a new way of seeing an old thing: absolutely. But job number one is to entertain. You have to give them a good story.
Here are twelve things that might be making your novel sluggish:
- Overly long descriptions
- Overly long monologues
- Anything about your grandma’s sofa (unless it has particular historical significance that you can somehow make dramatic, like, say, your grandma had carnal relations with Elvis on that sofa)
- Any long scene that doesn’t have a purpose
- Any short scene that doesn’t have a purpose
- Needless repetition
- Scenes requiring the reader to go back to the front of the book to reference a family tree (Just because Some Very Famous Writers did it doesn’t mean you should)
- Characters revealed only through brand names (driving a Porsche, drinking a Bud Light, carrying a Prada bag, and the absolute worst brand name cliche number one, Old Spice)
- Lyrical descriptions of the moon (unless you are Carl Sagan and/or you are writing about space)
- Office settings described in great detail with no irony or deeper purpose
- Conversations in which nothing is revealed
- Conversations in which a character tries to tell the reader everything, especially if Character A is telling Character B something Character B already knows for the sole purpose of conveying this information to the reader, as in: “That time I had your baby, it wasn’t really your baby, it was Dillon’s baby, and Dillon is my first cousin once removed…” etc.
Remember, people read novels for many reasons, but the primary reason is to be entertained. Be a good literary citizen, and keep your end of the bargain.
excerpted from the new book, Unf*ck Your Novel: 50 Ways to Make Your Novel 100 Times Better