6 signs your novel may be pretty damn good

Why do readers love some novels, but not others? Often we do hand wavy gestures at this kind of question, while intoning the magic word “subjective subjective subjective”. Yes, different people like different things. But there are a few qualities which many, many popular stories have in common.

There are six core qualities for a strong commercial novel, which I use as signs that a novel might be pretty damn good! I can’t guarantee that every writer, editor or publishing professional knows these, but I can say that if your aim is to create popular stories that reach a wide readership, hitting these markers certainly won’t hurt.

If you find these useful, take a look at The Rhetoric of Story, a short course exploring the 7 foundations of powerful immersive storytelling. Turn to Page 2 below to see the first 3 signs.


23 thoughts on “6 signs your novel may be pretty damn good”

      1. As a naturally unorganized guy, I realized about ten years ago that the panacea to anxiety is preparation. Would have helped if I’d learned that in my twenties….


  1. OK, one word sums up my response to this post:
    In one page, you did what most craft books wander around and never do achieve.
    Somebody, buy this guy a beer (or coffee or tea or whatever he pleases) wherever he happens to be wandering today


  2. Love your insights and summarizations.
    As an editor, I must request that you please change “multiple character’s points of view” to “multiple characters,” if at all possible.
    Thanks so much. I am thrilled you are spotlighting Two Crows.


  3. Hi Damien,

    I read your blog during cross-checking the qualities of my debut novel. I found all the 6 qualities are absolutely matching to my novel. Thanks for your great analysis and I am quiet confident now to release my work.

    Thanks a lot.


  4. Hey, Damien read my book. I ensure you that it’s worth your time. I’ll email you five pages or more. I’m pretty sure it’s awesome but if it’s not then criticise the hell out of me. I want to improve so criticism would be greatly appreciated.


  5. Reblogged this on Chimaeral and commented:

    This week’s reblog (the first in quite awhile) comes from Damien Walter, and is some advice on what makes a story attractive to readers – whle this advice probably won’t let you write a best seller, it’s definitely something to keep in mind when you plan your story (and maybe more importantly – pitch and blurb it!)


  6. “…hang around in a crappy abusive relationship for years” ?

    “Hang around” as though it’s a choice. How about “are trapped”, “imprisoned”–perhaps a truthful description as opposed to painting an abusive relationship as if it’s a corner store and the victim is merely leaning on the brick wall, passing time until one day she/he shrugs and walks off.



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