I make it a point to peruse readers' reviews: not just of my own novels, but those of best selling authors as well.
Doing so allows me to process what it is that readers look for, when plucking down precious dollars on what they hope is a satisfying read.
Ironically, most complaints stem from something that goes awry in the structure of the plot: say, a great beginning and end, but a sagging middle.
Or maybe it's the end that fizzles out.
The worst thing that can happen is when the book doesn't grab the reader from the start. Book reviewers may slog through in the hope that there is light (or a plot) at the end of the tunnel, but the average reader will toss it aside if there is no there, there.
You can't just presume that your wonderful characters are going to carry the book to the end. You have to give them SOMETHING TO DO. You have to give them real conflict and hard choices.
It's even better if those choices are wrong. This allows them to redeem themselves later in the book.
When I moved to California from Georgia, I thought it was cute that so many of the folks I met out here were seeking a “higher consciousness.” Usually that meant following some guru who handed out mantras like M&Ms, to be chanted for hours on end.
If his accent made it hard for the acolytes to get it right, they'd write down what they thought they'd heard, then compare notes–
Only to discover that while Fred was chanting “Aw wah no dah cal ah”, Barney had been mumbling “Aw no dah wah cal ah”….
If you don't understand the goal, no amount of gibberish is going to get you where you want to be.
I'm going to make it simple for you. Throughout this 30-day process, repeat this mantra:
Beginning, middle, end. Beginning middle, end. Beginning, middle, end…
To get there:
Your beginning must make your reader feel for your hero/heroine.
Your middle must be filled with twists, turns and dilemmas; it must ratchet up the action on every page.
Your ending can't be a cliffhanger. It must satisfy your readers' need to know that the journey meant something….
Even if they don't want it to end.
Because if they want to stick around for more, they will read your next book, too.
(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.
I've got a question for you, and be honest: does your story have a soggy middle? If so, what will you do to fix it?
Mantra this during National Novel Writing Month,