Much praise has been heaped on Charles Dickens this year - rightly so! His stories have engaged generations, and his depictions of life at the bottom of the ladder helped alter Victorian sensibilities. But I think we have to discuss why his work captivated so many readers over so many years.
My theory is his serialisation - his chapters, written for periodic journals, had to grab readers so they couldn't wait for the next episode to be printed. So often today, a novel might grab us in the first few pages while the remainder is a long slide down to a predictable ending. However, writing so that each chapter ends with possibilities that might take the character down a variety of paths, gives the reader something to care about. The story should not be a predictable path, but one where the options are fraught with conflicting characters, desires and events.
Writers, especially new ones, need to think about entertaining the reader, keeping their emotions engaged. So much of this can be learned from the work of Charles Dickens.