Professional writers of all stripes will agree that writing is both easy and hard. For novelists, the challenge exceeds composing well-written content. Agents reject flawed work. It is better to create a less mistake-riddled work given the high rate of rejection by agents.
Novice novelists make a number of common mistakes. Weed out these weaknesses while drafting the novel. Keep in mind the following common mistakes made by inexperienced writers.
1. An Undistinguished Manuscript
To get out of the slush pile, the novel needs to have a concept, an angle, or a pitch that is outstanding. Think big. Develop an aspect of the novel that makes it fresh, even if you are writing for a genre in which readers expect to see certain elements in their books. If your manuscript is good, but not good enough, do not be surprised by a rejection letter.
2. Extreme or Inefficient Language or Cliché-Riddled Writing
Strong language is useful, when used with discretion. Overuse is off-putting. Make every sentence economical; make your words count. Excessive verbiage is dead weight that hampers the reader you want to impress. Descriptive language or content that is too familiar is a cliché. Keep that in mind, and you will see that agents and editors will appreciate your efforts.
3. Absent or Bland Descriptions
Readers enjoy being transported into a different world. Provide a context and setting that will engage readers.
4. Pretty Prose, Lack of Clarity, or a Literary Writing Fail
Showy language overwhelms content because the disruptive power of pretty prose impedes the flow of the narrative. Optimally, prose clearly and economically conveys meaning. Be aware that sloppy prose may signal sloppy thinking. If you aspire to write literary fiction, competence is insufficient. Literary fiction must be well written.
5. Pointless Detail and/or Distracting Research
Avoid unnecessary details to keep the reader interested. Even if you have done extensive research about the background setting of your fiction, do not smother the narrative with facts. This also applies to information about location and scenery. You are writing fiction, not a travelogue.
6. Plots, Character, and Conflict Weaknesses
Is the plot discernible? Your manuscript should not be a sequence of events affecting your characters or have bland, non-relatable characters. Add depth to your characters with insights into their inner lives or background stories. The backstory provides more information about the character. It can even just hint at the inner motivations of the character.
7. Dialogue and Pacing Weaknesses
Believable dialogue can be challenging for first-time novelists. Read each character’s dialogue to catch inconsistencies. Stick to the same points of view in a scene. Handle the transition from one character to the next carefully in a scene. Uneven pacing makes the narrative disjointed and could turn off readers.
Writing a novel is a major undertaking. The next challenge is to get past the slush pile. Avoid common mistakes to create an outstanding first novel that launches your writing career.