Take it from someone who has fallen into every pitfall listed in this post: you’re better than all that noise, don’t fall for it!
Writing your first (or zillionth) novel can be a confusing and frustrating experience. Despite the cornucopia of information, insight and advice available online nowadays, it seems that every rookie novelist still struggles to jump out of the same boat.
We flop around like desperately slow walruses for a few months, then hastily (or not) clack out a few thousand words that we consider ridiculous, just to come to the conclusion that we don’t know what we’re doing and we’re sure we’re muddying it up somehow.
Ready to avoid all of that nonsense?
Below are the 7 rookie mistakes I found myself stumbling into repeatedly and my best advice on why to avoid them at all cost.
7 Amateur Novelist Pitfalls & Why You Should Avoid Them Like A Bee Swarm In The Park
1. ABSURD EXPECTATIONS
Writing a novel takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s no wonder that most people (ahem, yours truly) hope to the highest order in the cosmos that their first book is “the one”. If you find yourself spewing optimistic swill that isn’t coming from a realistic place, take a step back from your book and remember that you write because it matters to you, not because you expect riches the likes of which would’ve caused Marie Antoinette to wet herself like a startled pomeranian.
2. NEGATIVE NORMAN-ING IT UP
Just because you don’t want to get your expectations too high, doesn’t mean you need to become a thunderstorm of negativity. No matter how rough the journey may get (and believe you me, it’s gonna get rough), it’s important that you maintain a positive attitude. You WILL get this novel done if you simply show up every day and put in the effort. You WILL find success soon enough if you just keep at it. You ARE doing your best so push everything else out of your mind and remain steadfast. You think building Rome was tough? Tell that to every author who’s ever penned a book and watch as they maniacally laugh in your face as they know all too well how many freaking days, weeks, months, even years it took to complete.
3. SECOND GUESSING THE ABILITY TO WRITE
After reading and re-reading your work for the umpteenth time, you may find yourself second-guessing whether you even have what it takes to write a novel. I mean, who are you anyways?! Probably not someone with a college degree in creative writing if you find yourself perusing this site, amiright?! STOP NORMAN-ING ALL OVER YOURSELF. If you can speak a language and use a pencil (pen or keyboard), then you can write a damn book. Don’t sell yourself short just because it’s easier than being confident or because no one’s in your corner or because you don’t have a piece of paper on your wall reminding you of your paid-for worthiness to write. If you’re here, then you clearly want to write a novel, so let go of everything that stunts that and get it done.
4. REINVENTING THE NOVELDOM WHEEL
Welcome to the pitfall that inspired this website! With so much advice circulating the internet and so many people screaming “DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU,” it’s easy to find yourself trying to “find your process”. And sure, in many ways you will need to learn what works best for you. However, if you plan on making a career out of writing novels, then you need to get that first book finished ASAP so you can move on to the next one. Not because that first one is a guaranteed suck, but because finishing your first novel will give you the confidence to believe that you can do it again and again. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on this one. Find a spelled out process that works for you (perhaps the one on this site, perhaps not) and stick with it. Simplicity is key, my friend!
5. AVOIDING THE WORK
It sounds so fantastic to say that you want to write a novel. It even sounds great to brainstorm an idea out loud and hear a friend or loved one get jazzed about it. It’s a whole other ball game to actually show up and write. Whether you throw a lot of dinner parties or have a busy schedule, I would wager that the main reason you haven’t shown up for your novel isn’t because of either of those things. It’s because the work is daunting and overwhelming and damnit, you don’t know where to start! Discover Noveldom today to hit the ground running and feel less intimidated by your novel.
6. DREADING THE DRAFTS & EDITS
They’re inevitable. Deal with it. Unless you’re Lee MF Child (who claims to be able to write his novels in first drafts only…that MF), then drafting and editing is in your future. Heavily, in your future. Embrace the suck and remind yourself that even if you have to cut out a line of gold because it just isn’t relevant to the plot line, your pool of word-riches knows no bounds. Stop dreading the inevitable and learn to love it. Drafting and editing only make your book better!
7. RELATING TO THE GREATS
It’s so hard not to read your writing and then that of a literary great and then beat yourself up for even thinking your writing could sit on the same shelf, much less in the same book shop. Alas, the agony of being an amateur. Until you’ve been promoted in some fashion to the status of professional novelist, you’ll always wonder if you’re good enough to even bother. But remember what the great Harry Potter said (via J.K. Rowling, of course): “Every great wizard in history started out as nothing more than what we are now – students. If they can do it, why not us?” Don’t limit your thoughts to reminders of who you aren’t. Instead, be grateful that those authors came before you and broke down barriers for you so that you have the opportunity to learn and grow from their work. After all, you will only ever be great because of everyone that came before you. Had none of them existed, you may never have decided to write a novel in the first place 😉
Which rookie mistakes have you fallen into during your Noveldom adventure?
It happens to the best of us no matter how prepared we think we are. Don’t be shy! Share your experience below so we can all learn better what not to do next time 🙂