What Makes a Good Novel?

So I’m at 75,958 words (having written a commendable 5,373 words today) and I’m having a little bit of a panic. I’m really enjoying my novel and (despite my previous track record) I’m not having as many self-doubts as I might usually have. In other words: I feel fairly confident about the novel and its readability value.

My problem is this: Is my novel actually any good? I guess this is a question all writers have to face at some point in their lives. Having spent the majority of the day (until about 3:30pm) in nothing but a tshirt and my underwear I’ve had plenty of time to think and mull today.

I’m reaching a climactic part of the novel in which the protagonist and antagonist are facing off against each other as tensions mount and a few of the more prominent secondary characters are unraveling the mystery in something of a side-arc. It’s at this point that, despite feeling confident in the story in regards to how I feel about it, I’m starting wonder whether other people are going to find it as enjoyable as I am.

I don’t think it’s your typical ghost-thriller, nor do I think it’s a typical crime-whodunnit either. I’ve certainly taken aspects of both of those sub-genres and they’ve affected my story, but I’d like to think I’ve developed rich characters in a world that is believable. The story is far-fetched, but I’d like it to be within the realms of some distant possibility. I’ve done enough research to know that there are real-life truths and facts behind what I’ve written, but is that enough?

On this lonely road that writers walk, how can you ever be sure that what you’re doing is worthwhile? I suppose that’s something that we will all find out eventually. It’s like driving in the dark with your headlights – your foresight doesn’t exactly extend very far and you never know what you’re going to come across in the not-so-distant future.


Writing a novel is a scary road to travel alone.

I think if there was one thing I would say I’m a little disappointed in when I look back at how the story has evolved is that I expected there to be more straight-forward ghostly elements. I’m a little worried that it’s not all that scary – in saying that, when I got around to writing last night there were points that I was looking over my shoulders as if writing about a serial killer might just conjure one up in my flat.

Anyway, I’m just checking in on the blog and getting some thoughts and feelings down in words. It helps manage them, I think. I’m going to get back to writing soon. I think another 5,000 – 10,000 words and the initial skeletal structure of the novel will be finished. I’ve already got a notebook with a mounting list of things I need to go back and add/change before I can even start editing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daunted – but more than that I am definitely excited.

Authorship, here I come!


19 comments on “What Makes a Good Novel?

  1. Nope, you’re never sure if anyone will like your book as much as you do. It’s always a leap of faith. Good luck on the book. Thanks for following my blog. I appreciate the support and hope you enjoy the stories on Fridays.

    • Thank you for your comment! I’m definitely taking a bit of a leap of faith and it’s left me with a great deal of stomach-churning anxiety, but it’s also a very freeing sensation.

      Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I think you and I are in a very similar place in our writing. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts, wondering if finishing the first draft won’t be the hardest part, as I’d been imagining all along. I look at my list of things to fix come round two, and I’m completely cowed.

    I’ve spent so much time working on this draft, and now it seems I’ll spend just as much time on the next. And still I’m excited. I’m about to finish the rough draft of my first novel!

    Ultimately, I think we just need to ride that excitement to the end, and then send edited drafts to family and friends to get a better sense of how successful it is outside of our own heads.That’s my plan at least.

    • Thank you for your comment! It definitely sounds like we are in a similar place in our writing. It’s nice to know that there are like-minded writers out there going through a lot of the same thoughts as I am. You can feel quite along, especially if (like me) you’re not part of a writing circle or something similar. I really hope you have all the success in the world with your writing!

      Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. conniecockrell is correct. You never know if someone, or ANYONE, will like the story you tell. The leap of faith you have to take is comparable to jumping out of a plane without a parachute. It’s scary as heck and tears a huge chunk out of your nerves. But the most important thing about your novel is that YOU like it and YOU believe in it. Good luck in your journey. My journey has been exactly as I described above, but I would not trade my learning experience for anything in the world. Keep your faith, keep up your imagination, and get it finished! Again, good luck!

  4. Thanks for following my blog. Your question got me. I just asked the same one of my wife and she gave me a “one never knows” kind of reply. I guess we need to like our stuff no matter what. In fact who gives a rip if no one else likes it. (hint: WE DO) Am following you as well.

    • Thank you for your comment and your follow! I think it’s really important that you stick to your guns and go with your instincts. Even if it doesn’t always pay off, it means there’s room for improvement and new lessons to learn.

      Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Panic? Self-doubt? Yep, you’re a writer! I wish I could say it gets easier. I was so in the groove with my second novel, Spell Struck, and had so much empathy for the main characters, that I had a lot of confidence in the story. With my third book, Spell Fire, the doubts are back. Mainly because I switched things up quite a bit. The manuscript is with my editor. So far, she doesn’t sound worried. I wish there had been time for my critique partners to read it. Beta readers and/or critique groups, are invaluable. They will let you know if you’ve strayed off course. For example, the ghostly element in your current work in progress. Maybe it is fine. Maybe you need to crank it up. A beta reader could tell you. If you can write a serial killer that scares you, he/she will scare your reader. Just be sure you create an equally strong hero or heroine to oppose the killer. Good luck!

    • Thank you for your comment! I think it’s similar with a lot of people who are creating some kind of original piece of artwork that comes straight from their head. It’s just nice to know there are people with similar issues who are going through the same sort of thing – even if it doesn’t alleviate your own stress, you kind of feel supported anyway!

      Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Mike Grant says:

    I agree with all the above comments. I’m on my second book…the first didn’t shake up the world as much as I hoped it would but it did get good reaction. I still believe in what I’ve done and what I am attempting with a second followup novel. Every so often I get another couple of downloads and while this means little when it comes to financial success it means a lot that two more people are reading something I created. Small steps are sometimes what it takes. Thanks for visiting my blog and thanks for the ‘follow’!

  7. Chris Humpherys says:

    You are the first reader of the book you have written. ย Your mind knows the story inside and out but your eyes are seeing it for the first time and they look with wonder and awe at this creation you have designed and built with love and agony and exuberence. ย To actually see the story unfold from start to finish is mesmerising in itself regardless of what other people think. ย They will either love it or they won’t but you have done what others only dream about doing, you have created a world, a universe and given it life and drama and love and breath. ย 

    The pulse of your story will reverberate through your dreams and live there, whispering its gentle beat into your mind, thumping ever so gently as it awaits its companions; the unrealised creations of characters yet to be born and worlds yet to be raised from the abyss of the well of creativity.

    Nicely done mate.

  8. I’m excited for you. That’s a very solid word count you have. I’m looking at just about 45k myself, and I can say that there are times I am so excited how awesome it is. But then there are times, like recently, that I doubt the entertainment value of my novel. :/

  9. X says:

    I’m just at the beginning of a new project…a meek thousand and something words completed, so I’m in awe of you and your 75,000 +.

    But you’ve clearly reached a crossroad and you’re not sure if you can trust your writing instincts. You said you wish there had been more ghost suspense…so add more. This is your ‘terrifying work of art’, no one else’s. If you want to meld genres, do it. This sounds like creativity at work, and you need to stop questioning your validity as a writer. Write for you first. Your passion will flood through your work, and readers will pick up on this. My advice…put your lucky undies on and keep writing…

    Good luck cranking out another 5,000

  10. Well for starters, writing 5,000 odd words in an afternoon is a commendable feat as far as I’m concerned. I usually get to 2,000 before the self-doubt sets in and I have to go make another cup of tea…so be sure and congratulate yourself on all the good progress you are making. All the best with the novel, it definitely sounds like something I’d want to read!

  11. Jade Reyner says:

    Thanks so much for following me and I have returned the favour. I love this piece and you sum up so well how we all feel. I am now writing my second book and I kind of think that it may be better than the first but who knows? And the problem with the first is that I have read it so many times that I actually now hate reading it and so then you start to think, well if I hate it, how is anyone else going to like it? It’s a vicious circle but I think you’ve done brilliantly with the word count today and it sounds like you have the makings of an excellent plot. I look forward to following your progress! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Not sure I needed to know about the t-shirt and underwear though! Lol!)

  12. jannatwrites says:

    There is really no guarantee that anyone will like the novels we write. However, if we don’t love the story or have enthusiasm for the characters we created, it’s a pretty safe bet that it won’t come alive for the reader. Your excitement will come through in the story.

    When I read a novel, I look for characters that are so real, I feel like I’ve met them. Mysteries are my favorite. I want a believable plot, of course with some twists or turns. I love it when I guess ‘who done it’ and I’m completely wrong. A novel loses me when the characters come to unrealistic conclusions (evidence doesn’t support their course of action.) A novel bores me when I feel like the story line is too predictable and obvious.

  13. It’s interesting hearing about your journey and struggles at the tail end. I’m in that wonderous first stage contemplating my place as a writer and poet. It is blogs like yours that continue to inspire me, and encourage me to take the step. I’m currently at University, studying english and film, and I’ve set a tentative goal to finish a novel by the end of my degree.

    Keep it up. It sounds like, mostly, you are asking the right questions. I don’t think you’re really doing this alone. You seem to have a lot of thoughtful support here on your blog. Even if a lot of us aren’t publishing house representatives.

    All the best.

  14. Suzanne says:

    I wrote and published my first book online earlier this year. It is a y.a. sci fi novel and the word count is much less than yours. Writing 5,000 words in a day would be completely beyond me. Regarding the readability factor I got stuck on my novel about 3/4s of the way through and left it alone for ages. When I came back and re-read I realised it was worth finishing. Looking back I wish I had put it aside for a couple of months before publishing. That way I could have distanced myself enough to edit more thoroughly. I rushed publication and quite a few typos slipped through – I then had to go back and re-edit and re-publish. It would have been better to wait and do the job properly the first time.

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