These tips are surprisingly obvious, but time and time again I read submissions that are weak in one, if not all, of these areas:

KEEP YOUR CHAPTERS SHORT: each chapter should be between 10 and 15 pages long to keep the reader’s attention.  Create a mini drama in every chapter and have a hook at the end of each one so that the reader finds it impossible to put down.  Long chapters can slow down the pace.  With the rise of the eReader, and shorter attention spans, short chapters are even more important.

CHARACTER: it is all about your main character – you have to create a real authentic character that readers can automatically empathise and identify with.  Readers want to warm to your central character.

PLOT : nowadays, a highly original concept works wonders – something you can pitch in one single line that will make people instantly intrigued and desperate to read your story.  Publishers like to instantly see how they can pitch the book to supermarkets and booksellers.

And finally, when I studied creative writing at St Andrew’s University my tutor, the poet and writer John Burnside, gave the class essential advice in three simple words: REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE.  Make sure that every word is absolutely needed.  Any excess words will slow down the pace.  Fantastic dialogue and fairly short descriptive passages work wonders.