13 Mistakes To Avoid While Writing Your First Novel

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First Chapter MISTAKES New Writers Make Avoid
1. Plan your story structure before diving into writing.
2. Avoid excessive exposition that slows down the narrative.
3. Develop well-rounded and relatable characters.
4. Show, don’t tell, to engage readers more effectively.
5. Keep a consistent tone and style throughout the novel.
6. Balance dialogue and narrative descriptions.
7. Edit and revise multiple times for clarity and coherence.
8. Avoid relying solely on adverbs to convey emotions.
9. Ensure your plot has clear conflict and resolution.
10. Don’t rush pacing; allow scenes to breathe and develop.
11. Research thoroughly to maintain accuracy in details.
12. Seek feedback from beta readers to improve your work.
13. Be persistent and open to learning throughout the process.

1. Falling In Love With Your First Draft

You’ve poured so much of yourself into the pages that you don’t want to see them go, but there comes a point when you must accept that something has to change or it won’t become a novel. 

If you find yourself holding onto an idea or scene because it was fun to write, but doesn’t move the story forward or add any dimensionality to your characters, then it’s time for some tough love. Delete that scene and keep going until you have a finished product!

Building a strong foundation for your novel is crucial for its success. Explore our guide on 13 Mistakes to Avoid While Writing Your First Novel to steer clear of common pitfalls and create a compelling story.

2. Getting Caught Up On Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a good thing, but it can become a bad one. Being a perfectionist just means that you want to do things well. You strive for excellence and are willing to do what it takes to get there which is admirable! 

However, perfectionism can also cause problems when you put off writing your story because you’re trying to make sure everything is perfect before you begin. 

Perfectionism can also lead to writer’s block or procrastination if the pressure of having everything perfect becomes too much for you; ultimately this will delay finishing your novel and possibly damage your mental health in the process.

Finally, perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of their work (and others), which can lead them down paths of negativity that are detrimental both professionally and personally. It’s important not only not to worry about being “good enough” or missing deadlines but also to remember that criticism isn’t always as helpful as people say it is!

Crafting a masterpiece requires careful attention to detail. Learn from the 13 Common Errors That Most Authors Make to enhance your writing skills and produce a polished manuscript.

3. Not Being Able To Move On From A Chapter Until It’s “Perfect”

As you’re writing your novel, don’t get stuck on the first draft. You can always go back and fix little things later! The most important thing is having something written down for others to read or for yourself to edit later on. If there are some glaring problems with your book at this point, then work on them when you revise it later down the road.

It’s also okay if not every chapter of your story is perfect; this just means they need more work to reach their full potential. 

However, if one sentence or word seems off every time you read through a passage again and again without being able to correct it no matter how many times you go over them…that might be a sign that maybe it isn’t quite working out well enough yet (and perhaps needs more development).

4. Being Unable To Let Go Of Characters Once You’ve Killed Them Off

Your characters are going to die.

It’s just a fact of life.

The Sooner You Accept This, The Better Off You’ll Be As A Writer

To avoid being unable to let go of characters once they’ve been killed off, it’s important to know when a character is no longer serving the story or when they’ve run their course (which is usually after about three books). 

You can always bring them back later in sequels and prequels if necessary you don’t have to kill them forever! 

But sometimes it’s just time for these characters’ stories to end; otherwise, your book could get very bloated and full of unnecessary subplots that ultimately don’t serve any purpose other than padding out the length of your manuscript until it hits word count requirements.

5. Getting Stuck In The Research Trap

Don’t let research get in the way of writing.

Research is important, but don’t let it distract you from your story.

Writing a book can be a challenging journey, but insider knowledge can make it easier. Discover the 14 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Book Writing to gain valuable insights from experienced authors.

Research Can Be Fun And Interesting, But Don’t Let It Become An Obsession

Research can be a great way to learn about your characters and story; as you’re researching these things, think of ways they might show up in your novel (that is: how did they affect the character’s past? How might they affect their future?). This will help you gain insight into what kind of person this character is before even starting to write their story!

6. Never Beginning At All Because You’re Overplanning The Entire Thing

You’ve heard it said that the key to success is planning and preparation, but what happens when you plan too much? It sounds counterintuitive, but overplanning your novel can lead to all sorts of problems. 

You might find yourself with writer’s block because you’re worried about following a plan that no longer works for you. 

Or maybe you’ll spend so much time worrying about how everything will go together in your story that before long, the time has passed, and now your arc has been ruined by unexpected events! 

Or perhaps worst of all, after all those weeks spent plugging away at this project only to see no result due to faulty planning and poor organization skills, now there’s nothing left on which to grade yourself and thus no way of knowing whether or not the final product was successful or even good enough for publication!

7. Writing Too Much Description And Not Enough Dialogue Early On, Or Vice Versa

While it may seem like a good idea to fill your book with as many descriptions of characters and settings as possible, this can be a mistake.

Some authors are indeed so adept at painting pictures with their words that they can pull off being overly descriptive, but most writers aren’t that good yet. If you want people to keep reading, you need to make sure they understand what is happening in the story by giving them enough information so they don’t get lost along the way.

For example: “I walked out into my backyard and saw an enormous bird fly overhead before landing on top of my neighbor’s house.” This sentence has too much description because there is no dialogue or action included for readers to connect with or follow along with. 

It leaves them wondering what happened next or who did what. Instead of trying to describe everything about every character in detail from head-to-toe (aside from using physical attributes), try using dialogue instead: “My neighbor isn’t home today,” said Mrs. Smith who lived next door.”

Overcoming obstacles during book writing is essential to achieve your goals. Dive into the insights provided by 16 Common Problems Encountered While Writing a Book and find effective strategies to tackle challenges head-on.

8. Writing A Novel Exactly Like Another You’ve Read, But Without Adding Any Original Elements Of Your Own To It

Don’t write a novel exactly like another you’ve read, but without adding any original elements of your own to it.

If you’re still stuck on this one, try reading some books by authors who experiment with form or structure in their works. I’m thinking of writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith (especially “White Teeth”). You can also look up interviews with these authors on YouTube to get more ideas about how they use repetition and non-linear chronology in their fiction.

Think about how you can incorporate original elements into your work even if it’s only reading something different from what everyone else is doing! For example: instead of writing an epic fantasy adventure story about elves fighting monsters under the sea, maybe write an epic fantasy adventure story about mermaids fighting pirates?

9. Not Reading Enough In The Genre You’re Writing In (Or At All)

Reading other books in the genre you’re writing in (or at all) is one of the best ways to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what’s popular.

In the first place, it will help you understand what readers like about your genre. 

If you’re an aspiring romance writer, picking up a few classic romantic novels will not only give you some inspiration for plot ideas but also show you that there are certain elements that readers expect from stories of this type such as happy endings and protagonists who get together at the end of their journey. 

These things may seem obvious but they won’t be if all you know is how to write a story without reading anything else first!

Reading can also teach us which tropes are overused or clichéd and which ones should be avoided when writing our book(s). 

For example: if we want to write a novel about vampires living among us but don’t want our hero/heroine becoming distracted by another man or woman every time he/she gets close enough (leading him/her away from his vampire lover), then perhaps we should avoid using any kind of love triangle? 

Or maybe make sure that whichever secondary character might distract them has something interesting about her personality so that she doesn’t seem like just another boring girl trying too hard to steal someone else’s, man? There isn’t just one solution here it depends on what kind of genre we’re working with (fantasy versus contemporary fiction etc.)

10. Not reading anything else besides what you’re writing to avoid writer’s block when in reality you need to clear your head by reading other things sometimes.

This is a common mistake. When you’ve been working on the same project for a while, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a rut, or that nothing good can come out of your story anymore. Reading other things can help with this problem because they give us new perspectives and ideas we wouldn’t have gotten if we were just writing our work all day every day. 

It also makes us more aware of what’s already out there and what people are looking for when they read things online! 

Maybe there’s an idea out there somewhere that could be adapted into something new? Maybe there’s an angle that hasn’t been covered yet? Or maybe someone else has written about something similar but from another perspective than yours; reading their take on the subject matter might inspire some creativity in how you think about things too!

11. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Breaks from the project because you’re afraid to lose motivation for working on it, so you end up burning out anyway.

It’s important to get enough sleep and take breaks from your project. You should not feel guilty about taking breaks, or worrying that it may make you lose motivation. I know this is easier said than done, but if you’re having trouble with this then here are some things that have helped me:

Set a timer for work time and playtime (or whatever terms are comfortable for you). For example, I set a timer for 30 minutes of writing followed by 30 minutes of social media/browsing the internet/watching TV/listening to music, etc.

Delegate certain tasks so they don’t feel like “work” anymore; e.g., I delegate grocery shopping every Sunday afternoon so that it doesn’t feel like “work” on Thursday evening when I’m tired and want just want to go home after work.

Preparation is key to a successful writing journey. Before you begin, explore the 15 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Writing My First Book to ensure a smoother and more fulfilling experience as an aspiring author.

12. Failing To Take Creative Breaks From Your Novel Project As Well, Even If That Means Doing Something As Simple As Sketching Or Playing Music For A While

It’s important to take breaks from your novel project as well, even if that means doing something as simple as sketching or playing music for a while.

Creative breaks are a great way for your mind to stay fresh and get out of its head. They can come in the form of anything from playing music to going on walks with other people who also need creative inspiration.

13. Not Making A Strong Outline Or Having A Definite End Goal For The Story

Having an outline is a great tool for organizing the story, making sure it doesn’t get too long or too short, and ensuring that it has enough tension to keep readers engaged.

I know that some people say they don’t need an outline because they write by the seat of their pants. That may work for them, but I have found that having an outline helps me avoid many pitfalls while writing my first novel.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you avoid common mistakes in writing:

The 7 Mistakes Beginning Writers Should Avoid A comprehensive guide outlining key mistakes new writers should steer clear of to improve their writing journey.

15 Common Novel Writing Mistakes Beginner Writers Should Beware Discover and rectify prevalent errors that often plague beginner novelists, ensuring a smoother writing process.

Romance Writing Mistakes to Avoid Dive into the world of romance writing while avoiding the pitfalls that can hinder the creation of captivating love stories.


What are some common mistakes beginners make in their writing?

New writers often struggle with issues like inconsistent pacing, weak character development, and improper dialogue formatting. Addressing these concerns can significantly enhance their writing quality.

How can I avoid common mistakes while writing a novel?

To avoid common novel writing mistakes, consider outlining your plot, ensuring well-rounded characters, and focusing on showing rather than telling to engage readers effectively.

What are some common mistakes specific to romance writing?

Romance writers should pay attention to avoiding clichés, unrealistic relationships, and neglecting character growth in their stories to create authentic and compelling romantic narratives.

How can I improve my dialogue writing skills?

Improving dialogue involves studying real conversations, paying attention to subtext, and crafting exchanges that reveal character personalities and move the plot forward naturally.

What should I do if I encounter writer’s block?

When faced with writer’s block, take a break, engage in creative exercises, or explore different perspectives on your story to rekindle your inspiration and overcome the temporary hurdle.