I've read some more books. I absolutely loved The Blue Sword by Robin McKinnley. LOVED IT!
I also read Brisingr by Christopher Paolini (sp). Not really impressed. Way too much time was spent on politics and traveling. Blah! The only reason I read it at all was because I'd already invested in the first two, and I did want to know what happened.
So, take these two books off the shelf and compare them. First thing you notice? Brisingr is heavy enough to use as a wheel block, while The Blue sword could have fit nicely inside my purse.
Take Stephanie Meyer's first book, Twilight and compare it with her other books. Notice anything? Each and every book is bigger, heavier, more wordy, and more disliked.
Same thing with Paolini. Each of his books are bigger than the last. Why? Because the publishers knew they would be successful and let things fly they normally wouldn't have, and because the authors got overconfident and lazy.
Ouch! That was harsh. But it was also true.
Without exception, those big, honking books usually drive readers nuts. Me included. So here's some tips:
1. Every chapter needs to have tension. No exceptions. If you're main plot doesn't come into play, than you dang well better introduce or work on one of the subplots. Don't have one? Make one.
2. For the love of all things holy and right, DO NOT spend entire chapters traveling. Skip the traveling. Readers can only handle so much, "My feet hurt, and I'm hot." before we all begin to vomit useless words.
3. Make every Chapter earn its weight. Chapters MUST have conflict and move the story forward. If it doesn't do these two things, MURDER IT! If it has some beautifully written prose or a tidbit of crucial information, save it and insert it in another chapter. An entire chapter cannot exist for one page of important information. It's a waste of the readers time.
4. I submitted my novel to a well known publisher--in reality my dream publisher. They absolutely loved it, but they didn't want anything over 100,000 words. My novel was 120,000. I sucked it up and deleted 20,000 words. One of the hardest edits I've ever done. BUT THE NOVEL WAS SO MUCH TIGHTER. It's one of the best things I could have ever done.
And even though they turned it down at the end, I don't regret it. That's what authors mean when they say their rejections got the closer to being published. It was after this that I found my agent (who's submitted it to some publishers. If you're a believer in prayer, pray for me. If you're a believer in luck, cross every appendage you have, throw some salt over your shoulder, and buy a lucky rabbits foot. If you're unwilling to do any of the above, think positive for me.)