So, why do a lot of these novels not get past the requested full stage?
(1) One big reason is when nothing happens in the first 50 pages. When I say nothing happens, I really mean nothing CHANGES for the characters. Nothing is at stake. They haven't had to make a choice.
It's akin to a chess game. The chess players first set up the board. The pieces are carefully placed and then the chess player makes a choice and MOVES a piece;commits to changing where one of the pieces is. The story and plot start when the first piece moves, not when the players sit down at the board.
If a lot of your first chapter is getting people into place, I'm yawning by chapter two.
And if your character doesn't have to change, move, decide, risk something in the first 50 pages, it's often a pass from me.
Or think of it this way. Remember the Frost poem that starts "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?"
Facing those two roads is where the story starts.
How Our Man in the Woods got to the place, what he's carrying in his rucksack, what he ate for lunch, why he's carrying three cats and a lute...all beside the point. Interesting of course, and I'll be keen to see more about it later, but the story starts when Cats N Woodsman has to decide which path to take.
This is often what we're thinking about when you hear "slow pacing" or "the story didn't start soon enough" or more baldly "no plot."
It's really easy to confuse a series of events with plot. They are NOT the same thing. Only where there is something at stake/a choice/a decision/a change is there a plot.
(2) Lack of story telling. A series of events isn't a story either. A story has context and world building.
Felix Buttonweezer arrived on Carkoon. There was a lot of kale. He'd come from The Reef. It's true, you can't suggest Sharques post twice a day and not get exiled.
That's a series of events.
Felix Buttonweezer landed on Carkoon, jet pack in pieces at his feet, looked around at the kale fields and wondered if he'd ever see The Reef again. Or how he'd ever get back.
is the start of a story.
Do you see the difference?
(ok, it's terrible writing, but you're the novelist, not me!)
As you read books-not-yours, read with your writer eye. Watch how the novelist tells a story, how they get stakes on the page and WHEN. Emulate!
And often the best way to learn is to read books that aren't your favorite, and figure out why you hate them.
I realized I don't much care for the drunken-sot-down-on-his-luck-ex-something cause I like protagonists who are heroic, who are our better selves. This isn't some kind of blanket statement, but it goes a long way toward understanding why I love love love Jack Reacher and Sam Dryden. And why I love Peter Ash (The Drifter et al by Nick Petrie). While Peter is down on his luck, he's not a sad sack. He's a guy who makes things happen. (I'm sure there's someone out there who doesn't like Peter Ash but that person is a dunderhead and will be spoken of nevermore.)
Now back to my reading stack.
You do NOT want to guess how many pending fulls I have.
Or maybe you do.