So, I've printed out the novel and, so far, have read the first four chapters (out of thirty) with a pen in my hand. At this stage I'm not allowing myself to re-write anything because the aim is to read the novel as a whole and see how it feels but I am allowing myself to underline bits and scribble "re-write this" or "insert X here" or strike out entire sentences that don't work or phrases that are obvious repetitions or cliches.
This is more of a 'first impressions' stage and I'm asking myself these questions as I read:
- Does the story flow?
- Does the language flow?
- Are there enough hooks to keep the reader reading?
- How's the pace? If I find anything dull or slow or I'm tempted to skip over it as I'm reading, the reader will too. Anything I find like that gets a big "Pace problem" scribble next to it and will need re-writing later. Is the pace too fast? Do I need to slow it down a little to give the reader the chance to catch their breath?
- How's the characterisation? Are the characters distinctive enough? Are they 'real'? Do my characters react and act as they should? Is anything they do or say out of character?
- How's the description? Too much? Too little?
- How's the dialogue? Do I need to insert 'beats' within the dialogue? (i.e. descriptions of the characters' actions and reactions as they talk). If I ignore all the 'he said' 'she said' in a piece of dialogue can I guess who is talking? (i.e. the voice of each character needs to be distinctive enough to distinguish between them)
- How's the voice of the main character? Consistent?
- Do flashbacks interrupt the flow of the story? Could they be moved around to avoid interrupting the action? Could they be cut or shortened?
- Is the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first page interesting enough to keep the reader hooked and convince them to read the entire novel?
- Is the story believable/logical?
After I've finished reading the entire novel I'm going to draw up a chapter/character grid (as suggested in "Wannabe a Writer?") so I can see which characters feature in which chapters and analyse how well it works. Anyway, more on that when I start.