Top 5 Mistakes Novice Authors Make

Your road to becoming a published author will be filled with moments of pure excitement, but you’ll also experience moments of utter desperation.

The best way to prepare for these ups and downs is to acknowledge the problems and find ways to avoid the most common traps.

Novice authors tend to repeat a few simple mistakes and avoiding these can be the difference between facing rejection and being published. Remember, you might send your synopsis or pitch your novel to dozens of publishing houses before you see any interest, or if you self-publish (more on this later) you might need to deal with what feels like some harsh feedback before you get it right.

Approach your writing career as a continuing learning curve, don’t be tempted to quit, and your hard work will start to pay off.

Here are five common mistakes that are good to learn to avoid right away.

1. Insufficient editing

Grammar mistakesThe first thing you need to know is that editing is not the same as proofreading. Although you don’t want to send your manuscripts to editors without fixing the most basic grammar mistakes, you need to pay more attention to editing.

Proper editing will take time, so be patient and plan your work well.

Don’t be too critical of your work, but don’t be afraid of cutting chunks of your texts or re-writing big sections either. The more detailed your editing, the better chances you have of editors/publishers/agents and readers falling in love with your writing.

In terms of finding an editor to work with you to edit your manuscript, look for someone that will challenge what you are doing but that doesn’t want to re-write the whole thing themselves.

2. Constantly evolving plots

An evolving plot in this context doesn’t mean the depth and detail of your writing; it simply means your plot changing direction the more you write.

You have to have a goal to your writing – whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. If you don’t know what the purpose of your writing is or the outcome of it by the time you start, you’ll most likely end up including mistakes or incompatible plot lines to your writing.

Plan well, have goals and don’t forget plot twists!

‘Start at the end’ has become something of a cliché, but a mantra that’s definitely worth sticking to.

3. Boring details

A good writer knows how to set the scene without resorting to boring details. You don’t want to just describe what is happening in the text, you want your reader to feel it. You want to take them on a journey, not tell them a boring story.

Keep in mind that the situations you outline and the characters you introduce must have some relevance to what you are trying to achieve. If your audience can’t take anything away from the detail, you may be better off leaving it out.

Detail is great, but not when it’s there for the sake of it.

4. Doing what’s already been done

Even though some writers have managed to predict the future, you don’t need to aim to solve the economy or prevent climate change to succeed – though we won’t stop you, of course, if you wish to! But you don’t want to repeat something that has already been done.

Be original and follow your heart. Copying others won’t get you the results you want.

5. Doing it all on their own

Self-publishing is a great opportunity and you don’t need to go down the traditional route to publishing anymore these days.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire professionals to help you with editing, publishing or even marketing. You don’t want to publish something that is second best because you’ve already put a lot of effort into your work.

Even if you write just for passion and aren’t that interested in the potential financial rewards, seeing your many months of work amount to little more than a free e-book found on a deep page of Amazon isn’t a good feeling.

When you do hire a professional, make sure to look around first and do research on what publisher, marketing channel or printing route would be the best for your project. In the end, this will improve the quality of the final product, as well as save you money.

Let us know what have you found to be the biggest challenges as a writer starting out in the comment section below!

For more on writing novels, take a read of our article on how to get started.

About Kit Carstairs

Kit Carstairs has background in book and magazine publishing, academic research, marketing and broadcasting. She has almost a decade of experience working with a wide variety of content including: fiction (adult and children’s), general non-fiction (craft, gardening, home improvement, general DIY, food titles, natural history, general reference, photography) as well as working with corporate (marketing and sales material, business reviews and papers) and academic content (research publications and thesis). Having worked both as a freelance editor and as an in-house editor and project manager in publishing, Kit has a comprehensive understanding of the importance of content development and the need for authors to be proactive in developing manuscripts that represent their full potential. As well as providing manuscript assessments Kit is also able to offer her editing and proofing services (POA) as well as fast and accurate transcribing services (POA). Contact Kit to discuss these services in more detail. Kit lives and works in the inspirational surroundings of the Blue Mountains, in Australia's New South Wales.



Top 5 Mistakes Novice Authors Make — 5 Comments

  1. Lack of clarity in prose
    The first job of your prose is a simple one: it needs to convey meaning, clearly and succinctly. That sounds simple and it is. If you read the work of John Grisham, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, you’ll notice that their prose is workmanlike always, but seldom good. There are few strong, quotable, breathtaking sentences. And that’s OK. Those writers have other glories. But you can’t be worse than competent. Your meaning must be clear. You must know the meaning of the words you use. When you use pronouns (‘it’, ‘she’, ‘he’, etc), it must be clear who or what is being referred to. The reader needs to know where they are and when and what’s happening (unless, of course, you ae being deliberately mysterious.) This is so simple and so basic, but not all manuscripts achieve success.

  2. We still cannot quite assume that I could possibly be one
    of those reading through the important points found on your web site.

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  3. You make many valid points. I think the most challenging thing is that to be an author and not just a writer you have to publish a book. But it is not wise to rush into publishing. Reason’s for that as stated by you and others above. There are traps. But to get a book written and then realise that the advertising for this should have started from the start is daunting. Many websites are for authors and not for writers. And many websites like writers so that they can hound them to publish your book. Oh, brother. Getting a fan base of readers who offer constructive views on serial like instalments (not chapters but scenes apparently) seems to be one way of getting knowledge of an up coming book out there. Getting your writing cold read by others. You want to know if your story is all being presented to the reader in the most compelling way, one word at a time and that each sentence links, each step in the plot links.

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