Writing your first novel can be pretty challenging, mainly because there is no singular how-to guide or process for writing a book from start to finish.
Everyone has their own subjective process that they have to jump into the deep end and figure out for themselves. As an aspiring author, you should be enjoying the process of writing the novel and the different challenges that come with it.
The truth is that you will make some mistakes along your novel-writing journey, and we are here to help you navigate those. First, you will want to understand that making mistakes is just part of the novel-writing process.
What matters more is learning from those mistakes and making your story stronger so that you can emerge as a more skilled writer.
Let us look at the top mistakes that first-time novelists make so you cannot only be aware of them – but – hopefully, go revert to your novel draft and see if you can identify some mistakes and eventually work through any of them.
Too Much Narrative
The first mistake that many newbie novelists make is the mistake of an overcrowded narrative. This typically happens when the story has too much going on to the point that the story ends up being unfocused and ultimately fails to engage the readers.
This aspect could include the writer having too many character viewpoints in their novel. It could also be that the book has too many secondary storylines. Perhaps, the novel has a large cast of secondary characters that kind of take the attention away from the main protagonists.
Of course, your proofreader and editor will be pointing out the fact that there will be too much narrative – but – you will want to use the novel space carefully. It is also recommended to use proofreading software after completing your first copy to ensure no grammar, spelling, or formatting mistakes.
As a newbie writer, you will want to keep in mind that you only have so much space to explore the story within the novel’s boundaries, typically up to 90,000 words. Within that space of the novel, you are simply not going to be able to do justice to all of the characters and plot lines you want.
Therefore, you will want to be strategic and picky with what story you determine you will tell in full detail in this context. You will want to try to identify the main plot line, the main character, and the main point of conflict that the reader will follow in your narrative.
Another mistake that newbie novelists make has unclear character motivations. Since you are the writer, it will be crystal-clear to you why your characters are doing what they are doing. After all – you know everything about them as you are in their head.
But – you will want to keep in mind that these character motivations aren’t always particularly obvious to the readers, which is why you will need to make sure that you bring those motivations through the narrative. This way, the readers will become just as aware of the character’s motivations as you are.
Now, there might be a few situations in which the readers don’t fully understand the character’s motivations, such as the character of an antagonist, which might only be revealed at the end about why they are pursuing an evil scheme.
Nonetheless, when it comes to your primary characters, the protagonists, the readers must understand their motivations.
If you are writing in the close third person – you can show the readers the characters’ motivations by getting inside their heads and having them reflect on what is going on around them in a given scene. This way, the readers will understand the internal thought processes behind their actions.
Here is the thing – if the readers don’t understand why the protagonist is doing what they are doing, it will be very challenging for you – as a writer – to get the readers invested in the story and therefore engaged with it all the way through to the end.
The readers need to understand the character’s underlying motivations in order to connect with them, and then they will want to see the story through and see if the characters achieve their objectives.
The next mistake that many newbie writers make is something known as fake bait, which is when the writers set up those critical first fifty or so pages of their novel to follow a specific character and establish a point of conflict with this character and the readers really get hooked in on that and interested to see how things are going to unfold.
Subsequently, at some point, the novel abruptly switches, and actually, the readers find themselves in a situation where they no longer follow the character or that narrative or that point of conflict as the entire plot has transformed into something else.
You get the point – you will want to avoid the mistake of creating a fake bait and then switching the entire story where you have hooked the readers in on a primary point of conflict that the reader thought was the primary point of conflict all the way through.
And then – eventually – the entire plot transforms into something else, and the readers see that the initial conflict is not an integral part of the story, and most of the story follows something else entirely.
You will want to remember that the readers will be invested in the theme/ subject/ conflict that you present to them at the beginning of the novel. This aspect is what your readers will initially consider as the main narrative.
This is also the thing that the readers got interested in in the first place, which is why they will feel a little bit cheated if that is not what the rest of the novel is about.
In the initial few chapters of your book you will want to stick to the main narrative to avoid the bait-and-switch tactic. The last thing that you will want is for the reader to put down the book in disappointment.