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Which mistakes should a beginner avoid in writing a novel?

  • Thinking of it as writing a novel. Writing a book is tough, and it’s easy to lose motivation. You aren’t writing a book, you’re telling a story. Write down everything you feel is important to this story right now before making it a coherent novel. Quantity now, quality later.
  • Info-dumping, especially at the beginning. Its lazy writing, hard to read, and is extremely effective at instantly turning your readers off from continuing to read your novel.
    • This includes purple prose, and giving too many/any unnecessary details/descriptions. Unless the exact shade of the grass, how the wind felt, or the current phase of the moon is absolutely necessary to the plot, avoid writing huge paragraphs of it. Readers get bored easily; don’t let them. Keep them constantly intrigued as to what happens next.
    • Bad character descriptions, especially mirror descriptions. This is lazy, and just poor form. Of course, it’s important to give readers a general mental image of a character, but let them fill in their own gaps. The color of your character’s eyes, the length of their haircut, the exact outfit they’re wearing etc. more often than not adds absolutely nothing to the plot. Avoid if possible.
  • That being said, write dialogue, and lots of it. It’s an easy way of progressing the plot if used correctly, not to mention it’s easy to read. Readers tend to almost automatically skip to the dialogue when they see it. Take advantage of that.
    • However, one can use too many dialogue tags. It’s awkward to read, and honestly just poor form. Use descriptions instead, and for the love of God, describe what your characters are feeling.
      “How are you?” asked Matthew.
      Sarah sighed, “I’m alright, I guess,”
      Matthew replied “you can always talk to me”
      “I know,” she answered.
  • Don’t introduce too many characters at once. It makes it hard for the reader to keep up with who and what is actually important. Introduce characters slowly throughout the book when they’re necessary to the plot. Don’t introduce everyone in the first five paragraphs, making the beginning of the book overly confusing, then not bringing characters up again until four chapters later, forcing your reader to go back to the first page to try and figure out what’s going on.
  • Having a bad ending. Not all stories need to have a “happily ever after” situation, but it also shouldn’t have everyone die at the end. This is not Romeo and Juliet, and you are not Shakespeare. Once the main conflict is solved, gather all the loose ends and tie em up nicely. No one wants to read an ending that drags on.
  • Staring at your writing for hours on end. When you reach that point, you’ve read the same few paragraphs/pages/chapters so much they don’t seem to make much sense anymore. In fact, they might seem well-written, whereas in reality you’ve just lost the ability to actually read what you wrote. Save your document, put it away for a day or a week, and come back to it later. Now you’ll be able to edit and pick out mistakes much better than before.
  • Last but not least, write! It doesn’t need to be good right off the bat. Plus, you can’t improve if you don’t try. So pick up that pen, open that Word document, and write!
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