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Writing and Publishing

What Do You Like and Dislike in the Books You Read?

In the book From No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo), talks about constructing our Manga Carta 1 and Manga Carta 2. What does he mean by that?

Manga Carta 1 is a list of what we like in the novels we read. Manga Carta 2 is a list of what we dislike in the novels we read.

Once determined, we can use these two lists to inform our own books as we write and edit them.

Here are my two lists:

Manga Carta 1 (what I like in a novel):

  • Strong main character
  • Character growth
  • Interesting characters with a bit of a quirk
  • Balanced characters with good traits and bad, including the antagonist
  • Unexpected twists
  • Believable story arc
  • Short chapters
  • Page-turning read
  • Snappy dialogue
  • Short or concise writing without fluff, wasted scenes, and unneeded description

Manga Carta 2 (what I don’t like in a novel):

  • Multi-POVs all told first person.
  • Sad endings
  • Ambiguous endings
  • Over-the-top, mean characters
  • Implausible plot twists
  • Blocks of description
  • Meaningless details
  • Preachy or agenda driven
  • Flowery or poetic writing
  • Boring middles that just plod along
  • The predictable, sometimes manufactured, major roadblock at two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through the novel.

I encourage you to make your own lists. Then consider them as you work on your novels.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.