2023

How to Write a Novel (11 Mistakes to Avoid)

Which writing mistakes lead to failure and how to avoid them? It is a common question that aspiring learners ask when writing books and novels. 

Writing is a rigorous journey full of pitfalls and learning experiences. At the same time, creating your world and telling its story is always both fun and rewarding.

You indeed have liberty when writing fiction – it is made up after all! Rules are often bent and broken, and no one minds because it’s fiction. But, that doesn’t mean you should abandon good writing and proper storytelling altogether. That being said, you should avoid some common writing errors when figuring out how to write a novel.

Top 11 Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Here are the most common mistakes users make during writing:

1. Lack of Conflict

This is one of the most important mistakes beginners make in writing. A story is not a story without conflict. No matter how different and out of the box you want to be, you must not avoid conflict.

A central conflict is what drives the entire plot and moves the story forward. Something needs to disrupt the life of your protagonist. It can be a physical circumstance or an internal redirection, but it must be something life-changing.

Conflict gives the story purpose. It gives your characters a goal to work on. Without actions and appropriate reactions, the story will become boring almost immediately.

In the story’s main theme and the smaller adrenaline plots, always focus on conflict.

If you are stuck at a certain point and unable to create a drama, use Squibler’s smart writer to do the work for you. You can provide the main idea around the plot and it will generate a thrilling conflict to indulge the readers. Here’s an example scene generated by Squibler:

Smart Writer generating content based on provided instructions

2. Writing Unrealistic Characters

Much like conflict, a story is nothing without its characters. All characters, both big, small, main, and secondary must be believable and real. Many writers become lazy with their characters and don’t flesh them out enough.

Not every single character that shows up in the story needs a full history and comprehensive backstory, but the main ones do. If a character is not well thought out and deep enough, it will become boring and unlikable.

Familiarizing yourself with different types of characters will help you create effective ones. Here are four main types of characters:

  1. Round characters
  2. Flat characters
  3. Dynamic characters
  4. Static characters

Knowing these four types and how they are used will help you immensely in learning how to write a novel.

The best books, regardless of genre, are the ones that draw tears, laughter, or both from the readers. You want your readers so invested in your characters that they feel real emotions when things happen to them.

Perfect characters are not likable because they are not relatable. Even characters who are good people with good hearts and motives need to have flaws. If you are trying to write an unlikable character with more flaws than anything else, they still must be relatable to make sure to not confuse readers.

Why are they the way they are? What happened to make them so jaded and cruel? Will they change by the end of the story, or not? Answer these questions somewhere in the plot to make the readers believe the characters. 

There are many mistakes to avoid when writing a novel, but creating weak and unbelievable characters is the most detrimental. 

If you lack at character development, use Squibler’s elements feature to make them more relatable and likable. You can develop a character, even assign them a visual appearance, and traits that will relate with the readers throughout the story. Here’s how it looks:

Developing and storing characters in Squibler

3. Cliches

In a world chock-full of novels, readers want something original. Nothing will have someone closing a book for good faster than the use of multiple cliches.

Cliches are ultimately the result of laziness. A writer will insert a cliche that makes sense because they don’t want to spend time thinking of a new way to say it.

Cliches include phrases such as:

  1. A bun in the oven.
  2. A diamond in the rough.
  3. When all is said and done.
  4. When it rains, it pours.
  5. Through thick and thin.

These are just a handful of examples, there are many more. If you hear and/or read a certain phrase a lot, don’t use it. Instead, try to write the same sentence in a different way.

You might find yourself inserting them into your first draft as something more creative takes time and can interrupt your flow. This is okay, just be sure you spend the time removing and replacing them later.

4. Editing as you go

Everyone has a different level of perfectionism inside them, but all writers are afflicted in some capacity.

Regardless of how big or small it is, throw it out the window when writing that first draft. When in this early stage of a novel, getting words onto the page is the most important thing rather than writing the correct spelling or a sentence

Separate your writing and your editing. Make them two different processes and do them independently of each other. If you are constantly going back and changing small details, you will never move forward.

If you are always second-guessing yourself and everything you put into the story, you will be exhausted and the creativity will dry up.

Don’t edit a single thing until the first draft is finished. Even then, you may find it helpful to recruit the help of a grammar tool like Grammarly or Hemingway to get you started. For more information, you can check out these in-depth reviews on Grammarly review and the Hemingway app. These guides will give you an idea of what the programs do and how useful it is to use them.

You can also use a book writing writing software like Squibler where you guide AI to generate the novel content for you. The ability to build story structure and novel plot, grammar rules, punctuation marks, same tense structures, proper nouns, or even exclamation points; everything is already embedded accurately into Squibler’s algorithm. So, it means one thing less to worry about when writing with Squibler. 

5. Bland Descriptions

Descriptions demand a balancing act. Too much description overwhelms the readers and kills a scene. While less description will leave readers feeling lost. On the other hand, bland descriptions leave readers bored and uninterested.

To achieve the perfect description means to transport your readers into your world. It gives life to your story and paints the right image in your readers’ minds.  

Here are a few tips for creating good descriptions:

  • Start the descriptions early, and build on them as you go. Don’t describe a place your characters haven’t been to yet.
  • Be specific but selective. Be detailed when showing your readers what they need to know, but include only what is necessary and relevant.
  • Include all senses in your descriptions. Sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste – if applicable.

With Squibler, you can add more description to the content based on even sense, smell, touch, and taste in just one click. Here’s an example where Squibler described a snow scene in the sense of smell:

Smart Writer describing selected text in Squibler

6. Fluffy Dialogue

Dialogue can skyrocket your story to success, or sink it to the bottom. The difference between these two can be a matter of a few words.

Especially when writing a first draft, you will want to beef up that word count. You want to make it long and robust enough so you can move on to the next stage.

But, the reality is that unnecessary pieces of dialogue only serve to add quantity, and never quality. The good news is that tightening up fluffy dialogue is usually an easy process.

The first step is to make sure each character has a distinct voice. This will come with proper character development, which you do before you dive into the main writing.

Next, you want to identify and eliminate words that are unwanted or redundant. For example:

example writing

This exchange is clear and gets the message across appropriately, but some parts aren’t needed. Here is how this exchange looks once tightened and compressed:

example writing

The message doesn’t change, but the same information is gleaned from fewer words. This reads easier and allows the story to keep moving at a better pace.

These mistakes occur when you’re manually writing. However, book writing tools like Squibler are already programmed to avoid repetitive context and fluffy conversation flaws. Squibler maximizes your efficiency so you spend less time correcting the plots and more time completing the story. 

7. Adding too much Happiness

The majority of first-time writers often make the mistake of giving their characters lives that are excessively happy in the beginning. They create gleeful, contented people who are happily living in their perfect little world thinking this will cause the readers to care and sympathize more when bad things happen.

It may seem logical at first, but this doesn’t tend to work. Readers are interested in trouble, change, and drama rather than extreme contentment. This is why conflict is so significant. Any good story structure will include some form of the “inciting incident” early on in the story. Be wary of too much happiness, especially in your first few chapters.

8. Confusing Point of View

While the point of view is flexible, you must handle it correctly. Aspiring authors often gloss over this detail and write wherever their brain takes them. This is okay for a first draft but you must rectify it in the editing process.

Not every novel will have this problem as some revolve around one point of view. This could be a form of the third person or the first person from the same character’s perspective throughout.

Many novels, however, change perspective at times and this can easily become confusing. Going from the thoughts and feelings of one character directly into that of another is too difficult for a reader to follow. It may make sense to you as the author, but that’s because you created the scenario.

There is an easy way to make sure you don’t mishandle or misconstruct the point of view of the reader, and that’s to follow one simple rule: Only one point of view per chapter.

9. Not Knowing the Plot

There are times when a writer reaches the end of a manuscript, but never really knows the plot well enough and the story feels incomplete.

Whether you are a fan of outline creation or not, planning is essential to writing a novel. If nothing else, you must know where the story is going. If not all the details, you must at least know the start, middle, and end. 

Nothing has to be set in stone, but it does need to be premeditated. Things can change as your story grows and evolves, but you need a clear direction before you get started.

If you are someone who likes to make more detailed outlines, use book writing software to help you create the best outline possible.

Squibler is a modern AI book-writing software to helps authors write with 50% more efficiency with the help of a smart writer. Not just the smart writer, but the drag-and-drop system for chapters and scenes makes creating the manuscript an absolute breeze.

If you’re not sure where to begin, consider using a novel-writing template. These templates are designed to walk you through the writing of your novel without inhibiting your creative freedoms:

Writing templates in Squibler

Before you even start writing though, their capacity to help you outline is effective too. Notes and research can be easily stored and tagged for quick reference.

Squibler aspires to help you write your book in 30 days. It may seem like an impossible feat. But, with their AI technology to expand your plot in just one click, your hard work, and your commitment, you can do it.

10. Lack of Passion

Lastly, too many writers are out there trying to write a story they have fallen out of love with. Indeed, the road to a finished novel is not lined with smiles and rainbows. But, there’s a difference between a few struggles and a complete lack of passion for your novel.

It happens. You spend weeks and months on end dealing with the same characters and the same plot. Perhaps you’ve dealt with more writer’s block than you’d like to admit, and you’re growing weary.

You start to resent the characters and you don’t want to follow them around anymore. Maybe you’ve outlined and re-outlined so much that you’re bored of your plot.

None of this means you have to give up on the idea and start fresh. There are ways to combat this growing bitterness, but you need to be aware of it and catch it on time.

Start by taking a step back. Then, revisit your characters. Not what they are doing in the story, but the characters themselves.

Maybe you’ve already fleshed out their entire backstory. Fine, go deeper. Go back to the crucial stages of their life. The year they were 16. Their prom night. Their first boyfriend, whatever it may be. You can also ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are they longing for?
  2. Do they have big dreams?
  3. What are they afraid of?
  4. What is their biggest pet peeve?
  5. Who do they hate the most?
  6. Or anything else you don’t already know about them, big or small.

Do this for your protagonist and antagonist. Then, start on the secondary characters. It won’t be long before you feel a renewed desire to tell their story.

If you feel like your passion fades with the boring scenes that you have to write to complete the story, use Squibler. With the AI writer, you can complete the usual scenes in just one click, and this way you can stay focused and passionate about the main plot. 

11. Crafting a clear Narrative

Writing mistakes impact the clarity and cohesion of your narrative. You must pay attention to aspects like run-on sentences, independent clauses, and vague pronoun reference to ensure your story captivates readers with both depth and clarity. Let’s take a detailed look at these factors:

Unclear Pronoun References

Character relationships and dynamics are pivotal in the tapestry of a novel. You must avoid the pitfall of unclear pronoun references that confuse the readers. By specifying the pronoun’s antecedent, you can enhance reader comprehension.

Consistent Tense Usage

A novel unfolds over chapters and settings, making it crucial to maintain consistent tense usage for a seamless reading experience. If your narrative shifts between past and present tense without a clear purpose, readers may find it disorienting. Strive for cohesion by choosing and sticking to a tense that aligns with your narrative vision.

Balancing Active and Passive Voice

The art of storytelling lies in engaging prose, and overusing passive voice distance readers from the action. While passive voice has its place for specific effects, an overabundance dilutes the impact of your narrative. Inject vitality by choosing active constructions, such as transforming “The letter was found by Maria” to “Maria found the letter.” You must stick to an active voice when drafting your narrative to ensure good readability.

Punctuation Precision

Punctuation plays a crucial role in conveying the rhythm of your novel. Misusing punctuation can disrupt the flow of your narrative. For example: “The storm raged outside, however, inside the cozy cabin, Sarah found solace.” By opting for a semicolon – “The storm raged outside; however, inside the cozy cabin, Sarah found solace” – you maintain a smoother transition between related clauses.

Final Remarks

There are many mistakes to avoid when writing a novel, and all deserve your attention. These here though, are some of the most common. From conflict to characters to strong dialogue, there are many elements of a good story. It’s okay to make mistakes – that’s what editing is for!

Study these common mistakes though, and do your best to avoid as many as possible as you learn how to write a novel. This will get you to the finish line faster.

FAQs

Here are the most common questions beginner writers regarding writing mistakes:

How can I avoid common writing mistakes?

To steer clear of writing mistakes, do the following:

  1. Avoid possessive pronoun
  2. Write separate sentences to avoid lazy writing
  3. Proofread your work
  4. Use grammar-check tools
  5. Take breaks between drafting and revising
  6. Seek feedback from peers or professionals

Success comes with consistency. The more you practice, the better you can avoid the writing error. 

What role does planning play in preventing common writing errors?

Planning is crucial in avoiding writing mistakes. Outline your ideas before diving into the actual writing process. A well-structured plan helps maintain coherence and prevents issues like disorganization and inconsistent flow in your writing.

Are there any specific grammar rules to avoid mistakes?

Yes, having a solid understanding of grammar rules is essential. Invest time in learning and practicing grammar basics. Most common grammar mistakes, such as subject-verb agreement and improper punctuation, can be minimized by adhering to fundamental grammar principles. Focus on writing complete sentences. Omit words that confuse readers.

How do I overcome writer’s block and prevent it from affecting my writing quality?

Combat writer’s block by adopting strategies like freewriting, changing your writing environment, or taking short breaks. Maintaining a consistent writing routine and setting realistic goals can also help prevent writer’s block, ensuring a more fluid and error-free writing process.

Josh Fechter
Josh is the founder and CEO of Squibler.