When it comes to starting that first novel writing project, one of the most common emotions you’ll feel is trepidation. You’ll go from feeling like you are writing a superb best-seller, to throwing together a door stop. Sometimes, that feeling can come during the same paragraph!
For that reason, it’s important that you get over some of the rookie mistakes that makes such a fluctuation in your own self-confidence possible. If you want some help in making that so, here are five common mistakes new writers make when writing a novel.
A concept so wild…
…that you simply cannot take it any further. This is a common and critical writing mistake. You need to take a look at the book concept and decide if it’s either too hard to make sound good, or too mundane to make worth reading.
Writing a book about a future where we do nothing about climate change might be a good idea. Stuffing it with pages’ worth of stats and Wikipedia rewrites, though, might not work alongside your love triangle plot!
Try and ensure your concept actually makes sense: if it seems to be two ideas at once, start again. A good novel always starts with a sound concept.
Writing for the wrong era
Another common writing faux pas is to try and find the era that you can write about with the most comfort. Trying to write some mid-50s Chicago crime thriller just by aping the ideas and distinctions other authors who were around in that era won’t work as well as you think it might.
If you are someone who is of the modern era, then it makes sense to base your book in an era that you know best: without troves of research and planning, it’s very hard to write a good book in an era you aren’t personally familiar with.
Rediscovering the wheel
Another common issue is just going over old ground with a well-worn plot. It’s easy to do, but it’s likely to just get you ignored by an agency or accused of lacking new ideas. A good book always follows a relatively original concept: another spy thriller set in Vichy France isn’t going to go down as well as something entirely new.
Even simply combining the idea that you have at the moment with a distinctive twist can make it different enough from the novels you wish to avoid being compared to.
Taking shortcuts with writing
Just because your book is going to be written by a millennial means that you can get away with spelling like one. Keep your prose clear. Keep the spelling to the highest standard. Cutting corners with grammar and punctuation is a no-no. You might be from a more informal generation, but people don’t tend to enjoy written amateur and informally written novels.
Make sure you don’t take shortcuts in the writing to try and make it more accessible; rigorous, thorough editing will always look better than a book with a ‘hip’ twist.
Word count does not equal content
Lastly, don’t think of your book as being X words long: that will make you write fluff and filler to hit an arbitrary word cont. Most books can easily lose five figures of words without actually hurting the story.
Go through your book and rip apart any over explanation or repetition. Go through every sentence and get rid of the bulk. Many sentences can be written into half the words presently used. Rather than over explanation or paragraphs worth of description, it pays to cut down the message to make it more concise but also more easily identifiable to the reader.
If you go along with the above tips, you should be able to cut down on some of the beginner novelist mistakes you make. The more of these errors that you remove, the sooner you will be able to produce a meaningful manuscript and a higher quality of novel. It’s a challenge, but dealing with the above problems will make that challenge a tough easier to overcome.