Beyond Chapter Five

Lately, every novel I’ve read falls apart after chapter five, as if no one in the publishing process cares whether the book is good beyond the hook.

Just in case anyone is wondering, I will put a book down after chapter five just as fast as I would after page one. I’ll just be angrier about the wasted time and money.

In one novel, the author did what authors are taught to do, she pictured the worst possible thing that could happen to her characters, then made it happen–several times. Problem was, the worst possible thing resembled too closely the previous worst possible things, and soon the story became repetitive. I lost respect for the hero, because he failed in each event to prove himself heroic. Actually, I lost respect for all the characters, and therefore the author, and, frankly, the publisher. Apparently the publisher doesn’t hire editors who would catch these kinds of flaws in a manuscript and correct them before putting the book on the market.

In another novel, the story itself ended long before the book did. Apparently the author kept writing to reach the required word count, but once the story ended, the rest of the book bored me. I skimmed roughly one hundred pages of artificial tension caused by an unlikely event. To call the remaining story “predictable” is to dilute the meaning of “understatement.”

More than one novel has been extensively edited early in the book, but major plot-failures become obvious as each page is turned deeper into the story.

Before you think these books were published through minor companies, you’re wrong. These were the works of major, established houses. And I’m not talking about little things such as word choices–“she said it this way, but I would’ve said it that way.” I’m talking about a collapse of the story or an obvious disregard for the quality of final product beyond a certain point in the book.

This reflects badly on the author, the editorial team, and the publisher–especially when some of the problems would be easily solved.

I’m convinced the only way to be assured of putting a quality product on the market is to either hire an experienced free-lance editor (which can be expensive) or find an amazingly talented critique partner. Authors, especially new authors, must submit their works for honest and in-depth critique.

The best way I know of to gain experienced insight into your work is to join a major organization. Every genre has at least one. Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, International Thriller Writers, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and on and on and on. Many of these organizations have mentors or at the very least, critique groups.

Seek them out and take advantage of them. You won’t be sorry.





About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Authors, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Beyond Chapter Five

  1. I *ahem* have an amazingly talented critique partner. šŸ˜‰


  2. Neeks says:

    Excellent advice, thank you.


  3. SO true! And I’m the same way, if I get 100 pages into a book and the story just hasn’t done it for me, I’ll put it down. And it is right around the 5th chapter I’ve noticed that things begin to sour. I’ve even seen that in my own manuscripts. When I’m in the editing process I end up spending tons of time on the middle of the story because for some reason, something happens there and I just am not happy with a weak middle. I do sit ups to make my middle, my core, super strong, and I try to do the same with my manuscripts! šŸ™‚


  4. Linda – you and Katie are so cute.

    I’d be lost without my critique group. Well, more accurately, I’d be “unpublished.”

    Great advice and a great reminder.


  5. Nikole Hahn says:

    And don’t forget the amazing craft books like “The Fire in Fiction” by Donald Maas, and “Writing for the Soul” by Jerry B. Jenkins. Totally changed how I wrote.


  6. Great advice, and thanks especially for all of the critique and group tips!


  7. jfhilborne says:

    I might have to take a leaf out of your book (pardon the pun) and quit reading earlier when a book is bad. I just suffered up to 42% of a poorly written novel before I finally called uncle on it. After paying for it, I kept reading in the hopes it would get better and it never did. I don’t have that time to waste. I guess the only way to salvage anything is to contact the author with some feedback and suggestions…wonder how that might go over. I’m sure I won’t bother. Like with a bad meal at a restaurant, I’m unlikely to sample it again.


  8. Brad says:

    I read about one agent in the Christian fiction market who says that she only asks for the first chapter of a manuscript, not the first three. She explained that plots seldom come apart during the first three chapters, so she saves herself the time of re-reading all three. Maybe she should ask for the first six!


    • Linda Yezak says:

      As far as agents go, I don’t know how much they actually read. Some may read just the pages they need to catch the eye of an acquisitions editor in a publishing company, others may run the entire novel through their own editors/beta readers before accepting the manuscript for representation. I believe Steve Laube’s firm is that way.

      All I know is, as a reader, I can tell someone somewhere has dropped the ball.


  9. Lori says:

    dropped the ball. yes.

    i’ve worked in book publishing for a number of years. the problem is many-fold: inexperienced, and i’ll use the term lightly–editors (cough, cough–hey, they come way cheap!)–and very, *very* lazy editors; low-end proofreaders (also sooo cheap) and copyeditors; writers who just cannot write and whose books are amazingly! selected for publication–no one knows why, believe me. just trying to make a quick, mass-market sale, ya know?

    they are then slap-shod put together without going the normal, traditional routes to make the perfect book–notice the rife mispellings everywhere you read? the incorrect facts, even appearing in *fiction*?? i’ve worked for top publishing companys where you’d meet a new editor, a new art director, a new copy chief, and the next day spy them slinking out the back door, having been fired for making the least, tiniest mistake. now, that *was* harsh, too much so, but there used to be a huge pride–and high standards–in book publishing; and now, with the heavily down-graded skill and knowledge set, we’re having to deal with editors who were more interested in anime and fan fiction than learning to present a good and well done book.


    • Linda Yezak says:

      I just wonder how much industry pressure and change have contributed to this. Surely the powerhouses of publishing aren’t frantic over the new indie presses and self-publishers?

      Thanks for the comment.


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