From author Anne R. Allen:
Creating compelling narrative takes more than great characters, sparkling dialogue and exciting action. All those elements have to come together in one story.
Not a series of episodes.
As creatures of the television era, a lot of us tend to think in episodes rather than one long story arc. I know I do. My first book, which I worked on for a decade, contains what is probably my very best writing. Every scene is honed to perfection.
But it’s not a novel: it’s a series of episodes. I had story, but no plot. The book is unpublishable. No wonder it got over 300 rejections.
. . . .
Episodic storytelling happens when one scene doesn’t generate the problem of the next scene. You could shuffle the scenes around and pretty much the same things would happen.
E.M. Forster illustrated this in one of his famous lectures on novel-writing: “‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then queen died of grief’ is a plot.”
You can just as well say “The queen died and then the king died.” But the “dying of grief” makes no sense in reverse order.
. . . .
1) Start a novel with the ending in mind. I always do this now. After my disaster with the Novel That Would Not End, sometimes I even write the last scene first. It never ends up being the actual last scene, but it helps me enormously to have it sitting there as a goal.
. . . .
4) Make sure your story has an antagonist. Again, just the one. This doesn’t necessarily mean a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash bad-guy. But you need a force working against the hero that’s powerful enough to keep the plot going for an entire novel. Your hero can’t just slay a new dragon in each chapter. He needs to live in constant danger from the Big Momma Dragon who never lets go and can’t be slain by ordinary means. And Big Momma Dragon has to get meaner and more dangerous as her little dragons get vanquished.
5) Create characters who act rather than are acted upon. The protagonist’s actions and choices should cause each new event. When you have a hero who causes things to happen by her actions (no matter how stupid) the story is propelled forward. You can do E. M. Forster one better with something like: “The king died, then the queen faked her own death to run off with a hot young dragon-slayer.”
Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog