Is Your Novel ‘Readable’ or ‘UN-PUT-DOWN-ABLE’?

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

A couple of weekends ago, I hosted a session at the 2011 DFW Writers’ Convention called Bringing Pages to Life.  

The class was loads of fun–I met a lot of terrific writers, and since then I’ve been immersed in reading and critiquing sample pages from attendees. Of course, I’ve also been reading published books, beta reading for crit partners, and working on my own WIP.  

In looking at my own writing and that of others, one question plagues me:  

Is this book read-able, or is it un-put-down-able?  

Really, doesn’t everything–finding an agent, selling a book, finding an audience–***partially hinge on this one, crucial question?  

I think so.  

I think readable books… 

have a decent premise.  

have coherent plots.  

have believable dialogue.  

have sympathetic characters. 

have a narrative voice.  

garner nice, personal rejections from agents and editors.  

are damned with faint praise. 

languish in the slush pile. 

are destined for dark drawers.  

I think un-put-down-able books… 

have killer premises that hook readers and don’t let them go.  

have such compelling plots that readers can’t stop turning pages. 

have wholly convincing, honest, distinct dialogue.   

have living breathing characters with vivid dreams, recollections, memories, desires, and fears.  

have narrative voices so strong and so rich, they make readers laugh out loud, reach for kleenex, grumble in anger, gasp in surprise, and linger over passages,  

garner urgent requests from agents and editors.  

are ardently championed with with praise and recommendation.  

are pitched, sold, and slated for release.  

are destined to be bought, borrowed, and beloved.  


I know. It’s soul-sucking to think of our own work as ‘readable.’ But we can’t settle. We have to keep reading, keep listening, and keep learning. We can’t rest  or be satisfied until we write books that are totally UN-PUT-DOWN-ABLE. 

Hungry for more? Then try this recipe for Sweet and Salty Party Mix. One handful is never enough.


***Yeah, yeah. I know there are plenty of other variables (timing, luck, notoriety, etc.) that factor into a writer’s sucess, but this post isn’t about those. So sue me.

  1. catwoods says:

    Wiser words have never been so honestly spoken before.

    Now I must go back for another read through. Put-downable or glued-to-the fingers?

    Hope all is going well for you!

    I miss you like crazy.

  2. Jenny Martin says:

    Thanks Cat! I miss you, too. “Seeing” you online always makes me grin. 🙂

  3. Jemi Fraser says:

    Totally agree. Un-put-down-able is HARD to do – but I hope we all keep trying!! 🙂

  4. Erin Bowman says:

    I know I’ve said it already (via twitter), but I adore this comparison! Brilliant. I’m working on a WIP right now that I’m not quite in love with (yet). It’s good. It’s OK. It’s “readable” — Now if I could only figure out how to edit it into that un-put-down-able state…

    • jmartinlibrary says:

      Well said, E. (And when you find out how to make first drafts *un-put-down-able,* please share your secret!!!!!!) :0)

      • Erin Bowman says:

        Oh my goodness, if I figured out how to do this I would throw a major party!!! Cookies and cupcakes, galore. And then I’d write a book (one draft needed only) on the topic, which would, of course, make me millions…

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