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  • Writer's pictureKristin

5 Mistakes That Will Derail Your Novel, And How You Can Fix Them

**(this post contains affiliate links at no cost to you)

Waiting for Lightning to Strike

Now, I don’t mean this literally. What I mean, is that you don’t have an idea so you sit around on your hands and wait for one to come to you.

Bad news my friend, that is one of the worst ways to get started on your novel, or if you’re midway through, to continue it. The same could be said about blogging as well.

I mean have you ever sat around waiting for money to be handed to you instead of going to work, or putting in the effort to do something? Right, there’s no way that will happen, same with writing.

If you find yourself at a loss for ideas:

  • Read a book. Either in the genre you’re writing or outside of it.

  • Grab a piece of paper, or start up your computer and start typing ideas. Any ideas that come to your head. (You can cut horrible ones later)

  • Watch a movie

Okay, so I can hear your comments now. You think that if you do these things then you’ll be wasting time. But, that’s the wrong way to think about it.

  1. For example, take the first bullet point, Read a book. The thought behind this is that by reading, your brain will start imagining the scenery, the way the story plays out and it will fire up your own creativity.

  1. Secondly, if you have no ideas, start by writing down concepts that have already been done. Write as many as you can think of. (But don’t exactly copy those ideas as your own)

Think about what made those stories great, what you enjoyed most about them and think about how you can incorporate those things into an idea you’ve come up with now.

Hopefully in the process, your brain will start making connections and ideas will flow down to the paper.

When you look back at it, after all the ideas are written down, you can cut the unoriginal ones, the horrible ones, and focus on what you think will be the best to start writing about.

Then, you can start outlining for your novel or blog post. If you need help. I’ve got a beginner’s guide post I’ve written.

Another great thing is to watch a movie. Grab your laptop, a cup of coffee (or wine, hey I don’t judge) and put on a movie. But instead of only watching for enjoyment, be an active watcher.

What you have to do is think about the scenes, think about the dialogue. What makes it enjoyable? What pushes the scenes forward and creates suspense? How can you use these things in your writing?

Jot down any ideas as they come to you. All of these are useful no matter what stage of the writing process you’re in.

So keep at it my friend. I believe you can do it!

You don’t use Beta Readers (or proof reader if you’re blogging)

Let’s say you're at the end of your novel, or you’ve finished your blog post and whew, man, that was a lot of work. Don’t you think?

You’re dying to hit publish on your website. Or maybe you’ve just compiled it all with your Scrivner program and want to upload to Amazon’s KDP.

But wait, let’s stop and think for a minute. Did you go back and proofread your work? Did you make sure there were no plot holes, struggling scenes, or lacking dialogue?

I understand all too well the urge to hit publish, and have fallen victim to it before. Then, with horror icing it’s way through my veins, as I go back and realize just how many published spelling errors or formatting errors I’ve sent out into the world.

Now, I know you don’t want to look like that. You don’t want to be the person who has spent hours working on your project, have poured your heart and tears into it, only for the people who read it to think you threw it together in a haste and don’t really care about it. Am I right?

Good thing for you there are so many programs out there that can help you. I’ve just discovered Pro Writing Aid and let me tell you, it has saved me some frustrations.

It not only helps you fix minor grammar mistakes, but it also does these other wonderful things to help your writing take off on a new level.

  • Helps your style

  • Overused words

    • Cliches

    • Plagiarism

    • Diction

    • And so much more…

But sometimes, you just need a real person to read your work. Even computers don’t catch everything. You’d think they would right?

So I’ve done some research for you and the two best places to try to find beta readers I think are Scribophile, or GoodReads.

Both are free to sign up just make sure to read on the boards etiquette. You don’t wanna be that person spamming the boards right?

Lack of Story Structure

It’s the worst when you’re reading a story or a blog post and you think you’re about to get to the juicy part, the suspense is killing you.

You’re sure it’s coming, about to be here, then you skim over the words, trying to get there soon in anticipation…

But then, it doesn’t end. The climax never comes and goodness knows we can’t have that.

Instead, the story moves on in the completely opposite direction, and you’re stumped. Why all the sudden has the author not revealed who A is? (Pretty Little Liars reference for all you out there wondering what the heck that means)

So how do you prevent this from happening and keep your readers engaged and reading every word you written instead of skimming over your beautiful writing?

My suggestion is to outline. I know I know, I’m a pantser too, and it’s really hard, I mean like pulling teeth hard, to get an outline out of me.

But when I do, the words have purpose and flow. Don’t you want that to?

If you want to learn the benefits of outlining, you can read my earlier post, A Guide To Writing.

Even if you are the worst at outlining, even if you hate it with a passion, you should seriously consider committing yourself at least to putting a little thought into what you’re writing.

This works well for me and I think it could for you too. I get the basics of my story, the beginning, middle and end down on paper, add in a few more scenes,more like rough sketches, and then get down to the business of writing.

Your Story Lacks Conflict

In what world does every story end in a happy ending? That’s right, no world. And if it does in writing, it shouldn’t.

It might sound like a good idea, to have your characters all safe and happy and tucked away in their nice little lives, but how do you write a full novel when everyone is happy?

I think pretty much everyone would get tired of reading about 50 pages in and give it up.

Think about it, even in your favorite TV shows or movies, there’s always some sort of conflict. There’s always some way the main character is fighting for what they want and it doesn’t come easy.

If there’s no conflict, no reason for the character to be fighting, then how will you get your readers to want to be in the suspense with your character? To get your readers to fall in love with a character and their plight and in the end your book?

If your book is too far off reality, in the sense that nothing ever bad happens to your characters and they always get what they want, then your book is boring and unbelievable. Just saying, it is.

The world is full of conflict, even the most minor of conflicts happens to people everyday and it has to happen in your book as well, or no one will read it.

You Have Terrible Dialogue

Okay, not that I’m an expert on dialogue, but I read a lot. I mean a whole lot. I’ve got hundreds of eBooks on my kindle that i’ve read in just the past few years.

So, I’ve read a lot of dialogue. Some of it good, some of it bad. There’s no one way, no right way to write it, but there's a better way.

  • Make sure your dialogue is not stilted. Words should flow and not feel awkward to the reader (unless of course you have a scene where you’ve made an already awkward person talk, and it shouldn’t last long)

  • Don’t over use fancy tags. Said is usually good enough. If you use more, it only shows us you can use a thesaurus really well.

  • Dialogue should be like real life, but not exactly like it. For example, if you know someone who uses um every time they speak, and you take that into your writing, you’ll annoy the heck out of your readers. Some people can’t get past things like that and will quit reading.

  • Leave some of it up to the reader’s imagination. You should leave some mystery to it. End a scene with some dialogue where the person doesn’t completely finish the conversation. Even better, leave the chapter open on a line of dialogue which will spin the wheels of your reader’s minds.

Need more help with your dialogue? Check out this book by James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue. It gives you clear and concise instruction along with examples. The perfect book to place on your writing bookshelf.

Congratulations! You’re five steps closer to getting your writing back on track.

Give me a shout in the comments or email me and let me know what steps you’ve found to be the hardest. Or let me know a trick you’ve used to help your writing along.

Be sure to pin this and share with your friends!

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