I am in awe of those who can write a whole novel. It is a big commitment. I have completed NaNoWriMo a few times and never produced anything worth publishing.

Far easier to criticise the work of others.

I spotted your name in a conversation on Quora with my fellow editor Tree, and out of curiosity took a look.

I haven't read any other chapters, and I feel no interest in doing so. Maybe you've got a great story, but I'm not going to read on past the first chapter to find out.

Some problems in the storytelling.

1. There's too much going on. The backstory gets thrust upon the reader and it's hard to keep straight. Different for the author, who knows it all backwards, but for a reader coming in cold, it's a struggle. Who is the protagonist? What's going on here and now? Why is there so much back story?

2. Show don't tell. Yes, I know it's a cliché, but there's a reason. Until you know how to get around it, don't lead the reader through the memories and reasoning and dreams of the protagonist. Drop some clues here and there - we've all got human brains, and will follow those hints - but don't give the reader too many answers all at once. You want the reader to be curious about how the characters got here and where they are going, and if they read on, they just might find out and see if their guesses are correct, or maybe the writer can surprise them.

3. There's a whole bunch of tropes delivered one after the other. Maybe I've read too much, but to my mind they were evidence of something formulaic that wouldn't hold my attention no matter how many chapters I read.

4. Tell one story at a time, with just enough "hooks" to link into others that you hint/promise. Maybe that means shorter chapters, with more detail, but honestly, there's just so much going on here as the reader is filled up with backstory, that it's hard to concentrate on what is the main thread.

5. The process of waking to face a fresh day is one we all go through, and the way that consciousness engages with the brain after the night's down-time is always a rich opportunity for the writer. Fading dreams, the task of working out where our body is located and what the day's activities might bring, the desire for just a few moments more in the warm and lazy bed… There's a lot that can fit into those moments.

6. Consider starting at a different time and place. Disney follows a great structure, and it works for them. An illustration of a normal day, introduce the familiar elements in the life of the protagonist, and then something goes wrong and everything changes and the disasters keep on raining down, and we as readers consume each chapter voraciously to see how the person we have bonded with deals with these dangers.

7. Whatever your interior voice puts forward as the next step in the story, grab that, hold it firmly, and boot it straight out of the window. Every reader you will ever have will be thinking the exact same thing, and if their thoughts and yours are walking in side by side companionship, why should they read on? They know what's coming. Ditch the first thought, and the second, and third. Maybe sleep on it. Something will come along as your mind chews over the situation, and it will come up with a situation that will ring-a-ding resonate when it happens. Go with that.

Some of my stories take months or years to work out how to tell them. And even then I might toss them in the bin.

Sometimes I get trapped into publishing something that's only half-baked. NaNoWriMo is good for that. The relentless pressure to write 1667 words a day after day after day ensures that very little of what comes out is going to be worth keeping. It's all first draft.

I'm getting the feeling this novel is of a similar kind. My advice would be to look at the chapter, list how many distinct stories it contains, and make each one of those stories a chapter in itself. Maybe they don't have to be told one after the other. Maybe bits and pieces that are important can be revealed as a jigsaw for the reader to assemble.

And finally, every writer needs some readers who are not friends or family. I write down a story and I love it, but I'm familiar with the details and the characters and what's going to happen. I give it to some stranger to read, and they pick up on all the things I simply cannot see because my nose is too close to the words.

If one random reader is puzzled, or bored, or makes a mistake, then likely there are a million others who will do the same. Listen closely to what they have to say, and think of ways to patch those holes.

I can heartily recommend Scribophile.com for this. You'll get critiques from strangers, but you'll have to earn them by critiquing the work of others first. It is a win-win situation, though it's always hard to have strangers picking up your pets and prodding them.


Britni Pepper has always enjoyed telling stories. About people, places and pleasures.

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