There are many facets to a novel and if one element is ignored or weak, it may cause a lack of interest by publishers. Tidy up the storyline and construction before sending it out.
The Opening Lines and First Paragraph
Many people decide whether to read a book based on a quick scan of the first few lines. Are they intriguing and exciting? Do they have unanswered questions? Do they draw the reader in to read more? Does the story start in the right place?
Are the characters believable people with a unique voice and individual characteristics? Do they stand out and are they easy to visualize? Make sure they come alive on the page and don’t come across as flat or uninteresting.
Setting of the Novel
Is the setting a real place or fictional? Does this come across clearly? Try and avoid generic descriptions as specifics give a clearer picture. For example, name flowers and trees and describe landmarks and buildings to build a sense of place.
Dialogue Between Characters
Read the dialogue out loud to check for weaknesses or stilted conversation. Skilled use of dialogue should move the story along and strengthen and reveal characterization.
Is the Story Shown Not Told
Telling is the recital of facts whereas showing is the dramatic presentation of facts. Showing draws the readers in and gets them involved with the action. Telling is like reading a newspaper report of the facts.
Emotion in a Story
All stories have emotion whether it is love, hate, fear or suspense. It should be woven into the fabric of the book through correct choice of words and sentence structure. If a story lacks feeling, it will fall flat.
Is there Conflict in the Story
Most stories have conflict running through them. It can be problems between the hero and heroine in a romance or it can be ethical problems for a lawyer. The conflict should intensify into a number of crises, leading to one final scene, the resolution of which should be the culmination of the story. This should be near to, or the actual end of the book.
Grammar and Punctuation
If necessary, get an English teacher or similar to check these. Cut out unnecessary words and remove adverbs as far as possible. Don’t overdo the adjectives. It is quite possible to set a scene without lists of descriptive words. Eliminate passive writing.
These are the basic elements of a good story and if they are all in place, there is more chance of success when submitting the work to a publisher. Go through the manuscript chapter by chapter, checking each of the above points for the best results.