5 Novel Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Whatever people may tell you, there is no universal and clear cut way to write. Sure, we can look up writing tips and some of them might even be useful (at least I hope so, otherwise I’ve wasted a lot of time writing this blog!) but when push comes to shove, writing is an art form and can’t be easily reduced to a rule book. That being said, there are a few mistakes which are more or less nearly always unacceptable most of the time; mistakes which will almost inevitably ruin your book every time, no matter who you are or what you’re writing. I have noted a few such writing boo-boos here for your perusal and, per chance, instruction.

Having Little or No Conflict

No matter what your genre or who your audience are, all stories need at least one central conflict. That is to say, there has to be a problem for your protagonist to face. No matter how intricately you have crafted your world and your characters, no one will be interested in reading about their day to day lives where nothing much happens. Could you imagine reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy if Frodo had just been kicking it in the Shire doing everyday Hobbit things?

Of course not. You wouldn’t make it past the first chapter. That story, despite its all its detail, only works because Frodo is presented with a problem in the first couple of chapters which he then spends the next three books trying to resolve. The story ends only the conflict has been overcome.

Writing a Deceptive Hook

We all know that the first few lines of your novel are critical. After all, a boring hook will make your audience put the book down without giving it a chance, right? Absolutely. No arguments there.

However, some authors think this means they can have a heart-pumping, gun’s-blazing, rip-roaring thrill ride of a hook only to pull the rug out from under the reader’s feet in the next scene by revealing that it was all just a dream.

Don’t do it. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it will make your reader hurl your book across the room for wasting their time.

Propping Up Weak Verbs with Adverbs

Adverbs are pretty controversial among the writing community. Some people take a very hard approach to them, insisting that there should be absolutely no adverbs in your story whatsoever. Others have a more relaxed approach.

Me? I’m not going to tell you adverbs are the devil incarnate, but I will ask you to consider this: do you truly need an adverb and if so, why? The chances are if do need an adverb, it’s to prop up a weak verb. That is something to avoid. A stronger verb will make your narrative flow better and will communicate your meaning in a way which shows, rather than tells.


Ah yes, I know it can be tempting to devote an entire chapter to detailed back stories of your main characters and explain at length how the various fantastic elements within your world work. After all, you’re proud of your world and the people you have populated it with, as well you should be.

However large portions of explanatory material are boring, boring, boring and they drag the pace of your story down to an unbearably slow crawl. Don’t do it.


I know what you’re thinking: ‘this is a terrible story, I just need to start from scratch with a new, better idea.’

You might even think you’ve come up with a better idea, one which is sure to succeed where your current one failed.

But you’re wrong. Ideas are a penny a dozen. It’s more likely there’s a flaw in your execution and if that’s the case, you’ll just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

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Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

Please be advised that due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

You can check out our previous interviews here:

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