While preparing for NaNoWriMo 2019, I read more books in October than I had all year. I looked at each novel with an Editor’s eye in order to better differentiate what works and what makes a manuscript get shelved before finishing.
In no particular order, here are the five main story-telling problems I found during my Great Book Devouring Event of 2019:
- INFORMATION DUMPING – This was the biggest problem I had and would shelve a book almost immediately if the author cheated and dumped a ton of info on me right away. Let your reader find out backstory via dialogue and short tidbits from time to time. Copious amounts of text explaining what happened in the past is a cop-out. Good writers are better than that.
- EXTREMELY DETAILED SETTING AND WORLD BUILDING – Show me the world, don’t tell me about it. A good writer knows that the reader is going to devise their own idea of what the environment looks like in their mind. Don’t try and force your made-up world onto someone else. Share the mood, atmosphere, and locale with your reader and let them create their own landscape. You will draw in a reader much more effectively once they have put some work into the story and created their own stage together in their imagination.
- SWITCHING FROM POV TO POV – Some authors can do this properly. Many can’t. If a writer is of the latter group, there is nothing that confuses the reader more than a poorly-strung-together story from various points of view. (I recently picked up a cozy mystery where three different POVs occurred within two paragraphs. It was so confusing, I shelved it after only halfway into the first chapter.)
- DIALOGUE THAT SOUNDS FAKE – When editing your novel, read the dialogue aloud. Have friends read the dialogue aloud. Read it aloud again. If the words on paper sound silly when you actually speak them into existence, re-write it.
- PLOT THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE – It kills me when a main character acts against his/her nature and nothing in the story explains why that choice was made. Also, subplots that trail off and never come to a conclusion are maddening. If you leave your readers open to a “how/what/why?” question once they are done reading your book, you have done them a disservice.
I would love to hear reasons why you shelve books before finishing! Feel free to leave a comment or join my Facebook author page to expound.
I hope this helps as you continue with your novel creation! If you are currently participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck and ample writing time. ❤️