Writing your first book is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.
It’s a journey, and as a new writer, you’ll learn plenty of lessons along the way. (And come out of the experience a whole lot wiser and stoic than you once were!)
One of the things that you won’t be able to avoid when you’re writing that first book is making mistakes. It’s a given, and these experiences will help to mold you as a writer. However, there are some very obvious mistakes that you can easily avoid, that will save you a lot of time and effort.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve come up with a list of the five big rookie mistakes to avoid when writing your first book. Read on for some handy tips.
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1. Thinking your book will be perfect instantly: it won’t
This is one of the first things you need to get your head around when you are penning your first book; your book will not be perfect.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re writing. It’s all too easy to get frustrated when you don’t like what you’ve written so far, and when getting rid of it all is as simple as hitting the “delete” button, it’s pretty tempting to scrap the lot.
If the overwhelming urge to delete everything you’ve written so far and throw your laptop in the river becomes too much, take a step back. Go outside. Make a cup of coffee. Play with your dog for a bit. If you’re really not liking where a chapter or draft is going, save it away somewhere safe and try a different angle — but don’t delete.
A note taking tool like Evernote means you will never lose track of an idea. Transferring all your notes to this app means you can tag offcuts based on chapter, character or scene. With your notes organized and accessible via a few clicks, it’s easy to keep work not deemed good enough safe, just in case you change your mind.
2. Using inappropriate dialogue tags: “said” is enough
When we say using inappropriate dialogue tags, we mean words or phrases like “said” that describe characters speaking.
This is one of the most common mistakes that novel newbies make and it’s a clear earmark of a new writer. Dialogue tags from new writers can often be clunky and obvious, using words like “laughed” or “snarled” to convey emotion in a messy way.
You don’t want your tag to stick out in your sentence — it should be there to gently guide the reader without getting in the way of the story, while perhaps giving an indication of the tone that the character is using. Dialogue tag mistakes can be easily avoided
Sometimes, less is more, and “said” is enough. Knowing what is effective and what isn’t will help you to craft a better story.
3. Not seeking help: invest in book editing services
Writing a book is hard, and writing your first book is even harder.
A classic rookie mistake that many writers make when penning their first novel is not asking for expert help and then sending off their manuscript to publishers expecting it to be picked up instantly. And chances are, it won’t be.
You need to make sure that you give your novel the best chance it’s got of being published. The best way to do this? Investing in editorial services.
Agency editors will help you fine tune your manuscript and produce the best final draft you can. Leaning on highly experienced editors save time, addresses issues with your work, and reduces frustrations, whether you’re writing non-fiction, a children’s book or a thriller.
But editorial pros do more than get your manuscript in good shape. Editing service Jericho Writers states that “when you submit your manuscript to an agent, you’ll require a synopsis, a cover letter and the first three chapters of work.” Don’t know where to start? Seek a helping hand from the experts.
4. Mixing your POVs (point of views): stick to one character
POVs are frequently mishandled by new authors, who chop and change between the thoughts and feelings of different characters too suddenly.
Needless to say, this is extremely confusing for the poor reader, who has to struggle to keep up with which character they are currently following. It also makes it unclear who the protagonist in the story is — who are we meant to support and empathize with in times of conflict?
Mixing up your POVs is a huge no-no: stick to one protagonist’s thoughts to avoid confusion.
If writing from different perspectives is key to the concept of your story or is a valuable contribution, then you can, of course, use multiple points of view. However, it is wise to keep to one POV per chapter or section of your book. This will help you to avoid rejection letters.
5. Being too “wordy”: show don’t tell
Getting carried away with unnecessary descriptions and excessive, over-the-top words is a rookie mistake that should definitely be avoided.
Many new writers do this — they want to portray the story that’s stored up in their heads, but they end up rushing over descriptions, hyperbolizing and using far too many unnecessary words to get their point across.
Laundry lists of clichéd descriptions do not make for good reading; they’re boring, and add very little to the story. If you’re going to paint a picture of your characters, do it with subtle details and show their personality through actions rather than just stating the obvious.
Don’t dump information: weave the backstories and personalities of your characters into their actions in the story you’re telling.
Everything you write should have a reason behind it; every sentence, every intricate detail, should be considered and should help to build a character or set a scene.
It’s worth noting that another rookie writing mistake is to write weak, bland descriptions or write a book that is absent of descriptions entirely. You want to transport the reader to the setting of your novel; make them feel involved in your story and invested in your characters. The best way to do this is to paint a vibrant picture with your words.
These are just some of the rookie mistakes that you should avoid when writing your first book. Of course, there are many more — lacking direction in your plot, unbelievable characters or dull concepts, to name but a few. It’s always best to seek a second opinion (and third, and fourth…) from the people around you, as well as proofreaders and editors. They will help you to discern what your novel needs, and what can easily be dropped.
Lastly, remember to enjoy writing! It can feel hard sometimes, but it’s all worth it in the end.