How to Know if Your Novel is Good or Bad? (6 Signs)

You will know if your novel is good or bad by making sure that it has a compelling plot, sympathetic characters, a great setting, rising tension, comes to a climax, and has great dialogue. If your story features these elements you are well on the way to writing a classic! 

It Features a Compelling Plot

We all want to go on a compelling ride when we pick up a novel. 

We want to be swept up, and swept away by the story; to be transported to another realm full of exciting events and meaningful action. 

How to make a plot compelling? Make sure that the characters have a mission they need to achieve, and that it’s important they achieve it. 

This is called stakes.

What is at stake if the characters fail to achieve their objective? 

Also consider what stands in their way. The bigger the obstacles they have to overcome, the more compelling a plot will often be! 

It Has Sympathetic Characters

Sympathetic characters are characters we feel sympathy for.

What does this mean in practice? Story writing is very much concerned with putting your characters in harm’s way (to raise tension) as they seek to achieve their objectives. 

You want to make sure that your reader is feeling sympathy for your character when they come under stress.

Why? Because you want the reader to identify with the characters, and feel that they are also in the world, and going through the same emotions as the characters.

This makes sure they feel fully immersed and have a strong emotional experience.

It Has a Great Setting

Just having talking heads in a vacuum doesn’t sound very interesting. 

Being whisked away to a world that is not described in detail doesn’t sound very interesting either.

We want to go to worlds that we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell! 

Think of world building as like planting false memories in your reader’s brains.

When you think back on your favourite novel it’s like having a memory of real events isn’t it? 

Strive to create wonderful settings and worlds for your readers to visit. 

It has Rising Tension

Tension in good stories usually goes up!

Tension can be low at the beginning to ease us into the world. It’s not always a good idea to start too slow however, especially in the short story form.

Increasing tension holds our attention. When we become used to a world or situation we can start to feel bored.

If we sense that the action is rising in tension, and that it’s building to a point, we are hooked, thrilled, and want to see the final action scene. Or the promised scene. 

If the story tension doesn’t rise, the tale can feel stale or repetitive. 

It Comes To a Climax

Stories which feel satisfying usually come to a climax, and feature a denouement at the end. Denouement is the gentle part, or the section after the final confrontation between your protagonist and the antagonistic forces. 

Stories which build to climaxes are exciting, because if you have structured your story well, the stakes riding on the outcome of the climax will be very high, and the audience will be invested in learning of the final result.

For instance, if the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and the super hero must defeat the super villain or the entire world will be destroyed, then your audience is likely going to want to know which way the cookie crumbles. 

It Has Great Dialogue

Flat dialogue can be a chore to read

So how do we write good dialogue?

Well, start by listening to how people really talk.

Lots of writers write in public places like cafes and libraries, and frequently overhear snatches of conversation that they include in their story.

Also, think about intention. 

Make sure that your characters are always seeking to achieve their goal. 

Usually, characters want something, and that’s what motivates them to speak. 

If the character doesn’t want anything, then the dialogue may feel flat or pointless. 


So there you have it: six ways to know if your story is good or bad. Of course, these are some foundational principals of story telling, and there are many more great lessons to be learned out there, and many more techniques to explore and enjoy! We recommend you continue to explore our site to discover a whole world of writing advice.