fifteen common novel-writing mistakes


How often have you heard someone say, “ When I finally get around to writing the novel… ”? How often have you said it to yourself?

We’ re not criticizing those with that lofty goal in the slightest, but before you quit your day work and sign the lease on the garret, you should give a listen to what the experts at the Writer’ s Class, who see hundreds of novels annually, have to say about what does and doesn’ t work.

Here are the most common fifteen mistakes they observe.

1 ) A terrible concept

Some concepts just do not work. An ‘educational’ novel to get Young Adults with reams of explanation about climate science stuffed into a creaky plot. A book for adults that features the life history of the author’s bird. A sad story about a woman’s not-very-terrible mid-life crisis that ends with her deciding to work part-time and take up baking. None of these types of books stand any chance of fascinating an agent. (Well, OK, if they had been handled by an out-and-out genius, perhaps, but you’re not one of those. Almost no one is. )

How many manuscripts make this mistake? 1-3%

Howler rating (5 stars is worst) : *****

Comment : You can’t fix this error. You just have to start again. Sorry!

2 . A book that doesn’t ramp it up enough

Remarkably, this is something we see a lot. Thrillers that don’t quite excitement. Comedies that don’t really cause you to laugh. Romances that aren’t actually all that romantic or sexy. Fictional fiction which doesn’t really attempt to dazzle the reader. And you can’t become so-so about these things. If brokers and editors are faced with a choice between (a) a really thrilling thriller, or (b) one in which someone gets thumped, a bit, two-thirds from the way through, which one do you they’ll pick? Ramp it up!

How many manuscripts make this mistake? 5-20%

Howler rating (5 stars is worst) : ****

Comment : Still bad. You can fix it in theory and with a lot of work, but sometimes it’s better just to choose a better idea

Full story at the Writer’ t Workshop.

Writing to get publication.

Graphics credit: Canva