Many agents, editors, random people off the street, and everyone else in between might tell you that your novel needs to be "tight". Your prose needs to be "tight". Your narrative needs to be "tight".
What does this even mean? I was struggling with a way to explain this for you guys, and I came to one conclusion:
I needed to use an odd analogy. So here goes.
You know when you have steak for dinner, you always have that little piece that never gets eaten? (Okay, that's the way at my house, at least.) You take it and put it in a little bowl. You get out the clingwrap and stretch it over the top of the bowl. You make it really, really tight.
Then you poke the clingwrap, because it's entertaining. It bounces back at you. Don't tell me you've never done this.
Your novel should be like this.
Your narration should be tight, like that clingwrap. You need to be able to poke and prod it from different angles, searching for weak points and loopholes, and it won't break. It needs to be seamless and clear, without those annoying little wrinkles. Loose, wrinkly clingwrap won't keep food for very long, right? Same with your novel. Awkward prose can't make even the best plot work well.
If the clingwrap is tightly wrapped over that bowl, instead of all wrinkly, you can clearly see the juicy steak underneath. If your narrative flows smoothly without apparent flaws, it won't distract readers from the juicy plot underneath. But if your narrative doesn't flow and has odd seams and wrinkles, then the reader won't be able to focus on the plot underneath.
A "tight" narrative is seamless. Seemingly effortless. It doesn't distract readers from the story. In fact, if done right, readers will hardly notice the writing is there at all.
When you hear the word "tight" used in a writerly context, think of clingwrap. It might be odd, but hey, you'll remember it now.
Random Aside: Ah, clingwrap. Reminds me of The Supernaturalist, and all those fun times at Clarissa Frayne's *NOT*. Ziplock, too. Haha.