From April 13th to the 19th, I was up at the Mount Hermon Writers' Conference. It was my first year, and never has so much information been stuffed up in my head.
I had the privilege of attending their Head Start program with Mary DeMuth. Mary was really great and gave me a lot of valuable information about writing. I you don't already know, the use of the words "was" and "had" are not encouraged in the writing business. We were also informed that "ly" adverbs indicate weak verbs. Hear that writers?! Beef up your verb vocabulary!
We had a huge discussion about plot and developing characters in most of the workshops I attended. Plot is huge in a story. It has to hook your reader and keep them from setting the story down. They have to be in constant wonder and worry as to what will happen to the character next. Will they achieve their goal? Hopes? Dreams? Don't forget that you can't drop happy people in Happy Land! It doesn't make for a very interesting story. Characters have to face some sort of opposition - not necessarily an outright Villain - someone whose goal stands in the way of the protagonist.
Many Stories are plot driven, others, are character driven. If you plan to write a character driven novel (you want this for a plot driven novel too!) you need to fully develop your characters. The reader should be fully aware of what your character wants, their inner desires, what they look like, who their friends are, what their faults are... etc. A fully developed character will draw sympathy from your reader - they will be able to relate to the character.
No boring chapters allowed! There's no such thing as an ordinary day. Each chapter must drive the plot somehow. If it can be removed from the manuscript and the story still makes sense - take it out! You'll loose your reader if you don't. And try not to give the back-story at the beginning of the novel. Leak the character's past out slowly through the novel. It creates more interest - especially for mysterious characters or those who have secrets to keep. No wrap-up endings either. End your story when the conflict is resolved.
I hope I have imparted to you some little tidbit that will help with your own writing. Happy writing!