Here's the beginning of a new article of mine that's up on Crime Fiction Collective blog today:
Big-Picture Problems to Look for in Your Novel
Has anyone told you your almost-done story is too long, confusing, or just doesn't grab them? Here are some typical “big-picture” weaknesses to watch out for in your novel and correct before publishing it or pitching it to an agent. These types of glaring gaffes in writing, pacing, plot, or structure will bog down your story and could sink your reputation as a novelist. Fortunately, they can all be remedied at the revision and self-editing stages.
~ Overwriting. Not enough self-editing.
Today’s bestselling thrillers are mostly between 70,000 and 90,000 words long. Unless you’re an absolutely brilliant writer, and experts in the business have told you so, if your manuscript is over 95,000 words long, it definitely needs tightening up.
~ Meandering writing – the main story question / problem is fuzzy or buried.
What’s the protagonist’s main goal and fear, and his main problem? This should be obvious early on and be the overriding driving force behind your whole story. Don’t let it get lost in meandering writing, too much backstory, frequent info dumps, too many characters, too many subplots, and unrelated plot details.
~ One unrelated thing after another happens.
Don’t get caught up in “and then, and then, and then,” with a bunch of sub-stories or episodes that aren’t related to each other and don’t directly tie in with the main plot problem and story question. Your events and scenes need to be connected by cause and effect. Each scene should impact the following scenes and complicate future events.
~ Dog’s breakfast
A common problem is too many characters crowding the scenes with no elbow room, and readers getting confused and frustrated trying to remember who’s who. Or maybe you have too many subplots that veer off in different directions and confuse the issue. Or a convoluted story where many issues or subplots don’t tie in with the main character and their overarching problem. ....