Is the focus of the novel revealed early? This question is at the top of contract evaluations I do for a publisher. Most of the time, I check No. Writers often move slowly in the beginning. They set up backstory and craft detailed irrelevant scenes. Two chapters later, I still don’t know what the premise is. The best stories jump right in and reveal what the character wants and/or what the character is up against to get what he wants.
Revealing the focus can be indirect. Read more →
I start many novels; I finish few. After years of writing, editing, and evaluating works of fiction, I have reader ADD. I read mostly crime/mystery/suspense and some sci-fi, but here’s what makes me put down a book:
- Slow start with too much day-in-the-life detail or too much backstory (I like it when a novel makes me think Oh shit in the first few pages)
- Protagonists who do stupid things (especially before I start to like them)
- Stories that jump back and forth in time for no good reason
- Characters who have cutsie names or are obsessed with their pets (Sorry!)
- Detailed gratuitous graphic violence
- Detailed graphic sex scenes (They’re all gratuitous unless you write erotica)
- Characters who bicker with their siblings or spouses (I’ve seen a lot of this lately!)
- Too many characters introduced in the first few pages with no real explanation of who they are
- Pages and pages with no dialogue
- Protagonists who engage in immoral acts, like harming an innocent person (I need at least one person to root for)
- Long, meandering side stories that take me out of the main plot
- Serial killers (No offense if you write them, I’m just burnt out)
What makes you put down a book?