By Susan Mary Malone

Don’t you just love a great book as it transports you to a different world. No matter what genre you love best, off on a journey you go.

But ever have that feeling (more and more these days!) of either feeling bogged down in a book as if drowning in quicksand, or, the converse, the rat-a-tat-a pace leaves you wishing to catch your breath?

And how many of those books have you actually finished?

Readers say all the time, “I love X author because he writes page turners.” And that indeed may be so. Or, “I love Literary because it gives me the chance to think.” And that may indeed be so as well.

But in each of those—if the author is proficient—readers love them because they’re a balance of ebb and flow. You have to have both.

Writers hear a lot these days (God save me from monitoring the Internet! LOL) to avoid at all costs that dreaded narrative voice. Where do people get these things? And while yes, a true balance must exist between creating the action part of the scene vs internal dialogue, without the latter you might as well just have 500 pages of special effects and no story. Any developmental editor worth his salt will tell you this.

Because the internal dialogue—the narrative—is an integral part of the scene. When something happens, consequences occur. And our hero has to sort through those consequences—with thoughts and feelings—before getting to the acting/reacting stage. Otherwise the whole dang thing is pointless.

Conversely, even in the most quiet of Literary novels, something has to happen. Big somethings. This is quite often a dam breaking within the character’s head, but something had to cause that.

One of my favorite books is Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides. You pretty much either love Conroy or hate him, and I’m obviously in the former group. But we spend hundreds of pages in Tom’s head, going ever deeper into his psyche as he deals with outer events that don’t seem to be about him. NOTE: if you don’t like narrative voice, don’t read this novel! LOL.

Only to find, in a critical part of the climax, that indeed, something had happened to him that formed the parameters of who he was. And that something was horrific indeed. We experience it in flashback, in all its gut-wrenching glory.

Great authors understand that you have to have both action and reaction in stories. This relates to the structure of the novel, and learning what needs to happen when, and what needs to be thought about, felt about, and then reacted to—in the exact right timing. Yes, depending upon what genre you’re writing, the balance is a bit different. Action adventure has more zag, and Literary, more zig. But you have to have both no matter what you’re writing—editing a novel carefully to ensure this balance.

Most writers need to study this, and that helps enormously. Lots of good guides exist and taking advantage of novel editing services or professional manuscript editing can make a big difference.

But once you do and begin to apply it, gaining ever and ever more proficiency, you just feel where we need to ebb, and where we need to flow, and how to join the two.

Then, you’re really writing!

Susan Mary Malone (, book editor, has gotten many authors published, edited books featured in Publishers Weekly & won numerous awards. See more writing tips at & see her latest video