Saturday, 4 June 2011

5 Questions to ask before you submit that novel

Isn’t it time you put yourself in the reader’s place when you write?

Before you send your hard work off to a publisher or agent, try and put yourself in the footsteps of a reader.

Ask yourself these 5 questions –

  1. If you were a reader would the opening engage you and make you want to read on?  If it wouldn’t then maybe you need a rewrite/a change of POV/to start in another place.
  2. Are you relying on your brilliant fifth or eleventh chapter for them to say yes? If you are then you need to look at your opening again. Well, would you keep on reading a novel out of the prospect of it getting better later on? I know I wouldn’t. There are too many good books and not enough time.
  3. Does every chapter move the story on? If it doesn’t, can you do without it? Who wants to read padding? 
  4. Have you added something new to the genre, so a reader can say,’ yes, that book’s about a detective whose partner still helps him to solve crimes despite being in a catatonic state.’ Incidentally that’s what my WIP crime novel Vile City is about. You need something distinctive that’s your own.
  5. Remember, that most of all publishers are looking for books they know people will want to read. Is your book one of them? If it’s not, try and rework it or start again. As difficult as that is – hey, I’ve been there, blubbing as I cut my wonderful prose – sometimes it is necessary. All of the best authors have manuscripts gathering dust in a drawer that won’t be published.
As I write this, I am waiting for the opportunity to gut my WIP so that when I ask myself those 5 questions I can come up with satisfying answers. Wish me luck. Think I am going to need it!


  1. Good questions. I'd suggest a supplementary question to #1 - If a publisher or agent asks for synopsis and just the first chapter, are you tempted to send chapter three instead? If you are, then your opener needs to be reworked.

  2. Good point Rob. Every chapter needs to be your best work.

  3. I agree that we need to think of the reader - especially the slush pile reader!


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