I have strong beliefs as to what makes a novel readable.
- First, the reader should NEVER see the writer in the characters or story.
- The language has to flow like breathing in a yoga class.
- Lastly, the plot should unfold with seemingly no effort.
Then the reader becomes entrenched in the story and engaged with the characters.
It’s easy to let your opinions creep into a character’s thoughts or words, but those bits should be removed or reworked in the editing process. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to make every paragraph work or keep every chapter. Try removing parts and working key details into other scenes. Your story will be stronger for it.
Also avoid telling your reader the obvious, such as “she raised her hand up”, of course her hand went up, that’s the natural expected motion. Only give a direction when it is something unexpected. Same with “sat down in a chair”. I don’t know anyone who ever sat in any other fashion than “down”.
The breathing flow of the novel is more difficult to master. There are two techniques I use to help with this process: distance and reading aloud.
Distancing yourself from your work helps you go into editor mode and evaluate without attachment, gauging what needs work and what to cut. Reading aloud will help you tweak your dialogue to a natural rhythm and weed out the tendency to make your characters speak the King’s English. Really, no one talks like that… unless of course it is a carefully crafted character trait.
It’s a very deliberate process to make your writing read without feeling deliberate. Step into your character’s shoes, think with their thoughts as you write and let your readers see, feel, hear, smell and touch the action first hand. Cut the mundane and keep your pace moving forward.
And one last thing on the topic… flashbacks are not gratuitous character fill. The scenes are building the story forward with information and insight the reader needs to be satisfied when they reach the last page. Give them the same care you would the rest of the story.
Happy writing and keep plenty of coffee around for editing:)