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8 Common Novel Writing Mistakes Even Good Writers May Make

8 Common Novel Writing Mistakes Even Good Writers May Make

Let’s look at some common novel writing mistakes which any writer can make, no matter how many novels you’ve written. When I wrote my first novel, way back in the 1970s, a publisher bought it, and I thought I had it made. I knew how to write novels! That joy soon turned to horror when I discovered that writing one novel hardly made me an expert. Over the years, I’ve made many mistakes.

Vital tip: there’s really just ONE mistake you can make when writing a novel: you fail to finish it. All of your mistakes can be fixed, except that one.

Let’s look at some common mistakes so you can avoid them, or fix them.

Mistake 1: You try to write and edit at the same time.

Whether this is your first novel or your fiftieth, your head’s packed with rules when you write. Do this; don’t do that. All those rules will cripple your writing. When you write, just write. Leave the rules for later, during the editing process.

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If you try to edit while you write, not only will you stifle your creativity, you’ll end up with writer’s block. Yes, some writers can edit while they’re writing. They’ll write a scene, and will edit it immediately. Perhaps this is your writing process. If that’s so, you’ll know it, because you’re energized by it. On the other hand, if you start doubting yourself while you edit, complete the first draft, and then edit.

Mistake 2: There’s no conflict. Everyone gets along.

Tolstoy started Anna Karenina with the sentence: Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

He didn’t write about happy people. Happy people, no matter how wonderful they are in real life, are boring in fiction. If everyone in your novel is happy, your readers won’t be–they have no reason to read. By all means, have a happy ending, but make sure that your characters suffer along the way; make them work for their happy ending.

Tip: no one gets along in your novel. Just as in real life, we may love people, but we nevertheless dislike them occasionally. Think about your relationship with your partner, or your siblings. How often do you agree with everything they do or say?

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Make sure you have conflict on every page of your novel.

Mistake 3: Your novel’s predictable.

Read in your genre. Currently in romance fiction, billionaires are hot. If you want to write a romance featuring a hero who’s a billionaire, by all means do so. However, remember that readers who read these stories read a lot of them. They know what the tropes are. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre, you also need to surprise them.

Read novels’ descriptions and reader reviews on Amazon. The reviews will tell you what readers enjoy, and what they don’t. Avoid making your novel too similar to others, so that you can avoid being predictable.

Mistake 4: Your characters are cliched, or stereotyped.

Every genre of fiction has its cliches. Avoid them, if you can. Sometimes they’re unavoidable. What would historical romance be without the rake who’s transformed by love? Shady ladies who have hearts of gold are staples in many genres too.

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If you must use a cliche character like the rebel with or without a cause, give the cliche a twist.

Mistake 5: Your lead characters are unlikable.

If your heroine is a whiner, the reader will toss your book against the wall, or will delete it from her Kindle. Your leads need to be likable–people who deserve their happy ending. They need big problems, and the strength to win out when everything seems against them. They need to be admirable–even your villains need one admirable trait; otherwise, they’re cartoons.

Mistake 6: You keep writing when you’re bored.

If you’re bored with your book, your readers will be, too.

Raymond Chandler’s advice was: “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.”

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If your carefully plotted novel puts you to sleep, bring on the man with the gun.

Mistake 7: You write what you don’t read.

It’s tempting to jump onto the currently hot genre, whatever it may be. If you can’t read paranormal novels (vampires make you feel ill, and you think shape shifters are ridiculous) you won’t write a readable paranormal novel.

Write in genres which you read with enjoyment.

Mistake 8: All your characters sound the same.

In your first draft, your only job is to write through to the end of your novel. In your second draft, it’s time to think about your characters, and ensure that each character acts and speaks like himself.

Writing a novel is a huge, but very rewarding, undertaking. It’s easy to make novel writing mistakes. As soon as you become aware of them, do your best to correct them.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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