Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 9 years ago

Books & Authors : What are some basic things a writer should avoid when writing their very first novel ? + BQs?

The reason I am asking is because I belong to these people who have just started writing their very first novels.

I used to write short stories ( 10 pages maximum ) and also poems, but I am under the impression that writing a novel is a totally different thing, more difficult, and a completely different experience.

Well, as I already mentioned, I have just started writing one of my novels ( to become ), and I am going through my very first drafts. I know that a novice aspiring writer, like I am, should not seek perfection when it comes to his/her first drafts, but I would also like to know what other greatly important things I should definitely avoid.

Also : Sometimes I feel like I am stressful and depressed enough to write, so I am not ... productive at all. But, when I sit down and start writing, I automatically become obsessed over it and I can finish a large amount of my work.Has anyone else experienced the same ever before ? If yes, how can I possibly avoid being all stressful and/or depressed right before starting a story ?

BQs :

1) Look back at your very first stories, and now return to your newest ones.What has changed through all these years concerning your writing abilities ? Are your plots and characters more interesting, realistic and developed ? If not, what will you do to change this fact ?

2) Do you act differently when you write ? Like, for example, you become more sensitive, preoccupied, conscious ? Do you think that writers' personality is split in half ? "The real me" and "the other me" ... ?

3) Pick one of your Main Characters and describe in three words what would they do/feel or how would they react if :

a) They awoke in the middle of a deserted, unknown island somewhere on Pacific Ocean ?

b) A stranger (male) would knock on their door after midnight, with a smile on his face and red roses on his hands ?

c) The villain would call them on the phone, apologizing for everything he/she had ever done to them, and then asking for a place to go with them ?

d) Their favorite/most lovable pet would pass away in front of their eyes ?

e) They had their birthday but no one remembered ?

Thank you very much for your time ~

11 Answers

  • Best Answer

    I think the single most important thing to remember is that your first draft is allowed to be absolute crap. You can fix it later. That's what editing is for. But get the first draft done, beginning to end, because that's the biggest hurdle to overcome when you've set out to write 70,000+ words.

    BQ1: I have actually learned how to tell a story. The first 'novel' I wrote was horrible, cliched, and now that I go back and look at it, very very boring. Now, when I write, there's an actual story involved, and one that I find quite interesting to boot!

    BQ2: I don't think so. Then again, I live alone, so even if I did turn into a different person, no one would notice but my dogs, and they aren't telling anyone.

    BQ3: I'll use Kendall for once. He's actually a supporting character, but I just love him to death.

    a) He'd look for a way off first, then when he found he couldn't get away, he'd find himself a coconut and a palm tree, sit down, and wait for his dad to come and get him.

    b) He'd be a little put-off, then assume the flowers were for Liana and give them to his dad to pass on later.

    c) He'd be a little concerned, considering there's no villain in this particular story. It would be weird if 'the world' could use a phone.

    d) He doesn't have any pets. Assuming an animal he was close to died in front of him, he still wouldn't care much. Things live, then they die and feed the earth. It's just the way things are.

    e) I'm not even sure he knows his birthday, but if he did and everyone forgot, being that he's a fifteen-year-old kid, he'd be hurt. He wouldn't say anything, except maybe to Liana or Miss Millie, but he'd be hurt.

  • 9 years ago

    Basic things to avoid?


    1) Avoid dialogue tags and try to look for other ways to describe how a character is speaking/reacting

    2) Avoid information dumps and try to weave them into the action within your prose

    3) Avoid overindulgent and/or unrealistic dialogue/actions that are inconsistent with the character.

    4) Avoid purple prose with excessive adverbs/adjectives that modify the nouns/verbs in the sentence.

    5) Avoid redundant and/or boring dialogue/prose that do nothing to push the plot along.

    6) Avoid imagery that isn't consistent with the story's setting. If its set in the 1300's then don't compare the sun to a light bulb since light bulbs didn't exist then

    7) Avoid overindulgent attempts to provoke the reader's emotions. Subtle suggestions will make readers draw their own conclusions and care more about the character's plight than if the author endlessly describes how sad something is and the misery the character is experiencing.

    8) Avoid obvious cliches that would detract from the story line (especially in terms of mysteries and plot lines), otherwise the story line will be too predictable

    9) Avoid perfect Mary/Gary-Stu characters, give them flaws, wants, needs, etc. Make them real.

    10) Avoid trying to get your manuscript perfect the first time around. Just write it and revise later.

    11) Avoid copying other authors. You will garner more criticism than praise if you steal ideas

    On another note: I think writing short stories is harder than writing novels or novellas b/c you have less words to work with in order to develop characters, plot, rising action, conflict, and an ending. So it's more difficult in my opinion because each word counts and you can't overindulge as you can with novels.

    BQ: yes, everything has changed from my very first. My first had all of the above.

    BQ2: No. I'm the same as always. But with certain scenes (and this happens while I read as well), I will physically react if my emotions are compromised by the material.

    BQ3: Not enough room to fill this one out.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    This is the perfect question for me to answer!

    I'm on my second novel and I remember at the beginning of December 2009 when I decided that I HAD to start story and finish it. So my memories are fresh.

    Anyway, what I want to say is....

    You know what? Write the way you want to.

    Wanna have a unrealistic plot? Go for it!

    Wanna have rubbish 1 dimensional characters? Go for it!

    Wanna tell and not show? (Show not tell is when you avoid the description e.g. of a character. E.g. He was a tall man, with a large roman nose and dark eyes like blackberries, for example (yeah it's rubbish I know.) Instead, when you write about his date with his girlfriend, she could pick up the blackberry on her pavalova and comment on how it's the same colour as his eyes).

    The reason why I said all of that, is because it doesn't matter. Write how you think it should be etc. Enjoy it! It shouldn't be hard.

    My advice for the first draft:

    - Don't worry about word count/page count.

    - Don't worry about it being 'rubbish'

    - DON'T start editing it without finishing the draft.

    In the second draft, sort out the characterisation, the plot, active voice, not passive voice and so on. Enjoy the first draft. By the time you go to the second draft, you'll have so much ideas! I plan for my second draft to think about every event that happens. (In my story, Some children have been found to be kidnapped. What would that mean for everyone? The public? The people involved? The kids? The families? For the public, there would just be a general surge of interest. But for the people involved, like the police, they would all be shocked and puzzled on how it could've happened. For the kids, they would've been scared. The families would've cried)


    Maybe you have writer's block? I'm not sure. I've never had it. Just go to a quiet room, lie on the bed, close your eyes with the sound of the rain from YouTube on. Or go for a walk before you start. Or a bath.



    1) It was too obvious that I was trying too hard. Also, my plots and characters weren't good at all. While the characters are getting better and so are the plots (noticeably) they still need work. And lots of practise too.

    2) It really depends. Sometimes I act really crazy, but I write about serious stuff. I just use Music to change 'me' and what I'm feeling.

    A writers personality could easily be split in half. But I wouldn't know!

    3) Liam. Blond hair, green eyed, thin, tanned and a straight nose.

    a) "Whoa!" He'd go round and explore the place. He'd enjoy it.

    b) "Sorry but I think you have the wrong door." Completely shocked and irritated that he woke up for no reason.

    c) Probably go and meet them, and if he could, he'd beat up this particular villain as hard as he could. Then perhaps kill him if he was really that mad.

    d) Sigh. Think. Then cheer himself up by going out with a friend.

    e) Burst into tears while no one is looking.

    Oh dear. I didn't see the three words bit...

    Source(s): 13 year old writer :D
  • 9 years ago

    Original question: At the very basic level, you have to learn to write well before anything can happen. That means:

    -show don't tell

    -active voice

    -strong verbs

    -no redundancies

    -good flow

    -varying sentence structure and length

    -making sure things aren't awkwardly worded

    -grammatically correct

    -limiting the use of adverbs, especially modifying weak verbs

    -strong, real dialogue

    After that, I believe we, as writers, create our own personal rules that we follow. I, for example, will never use passive voice in an action scene. To me, that's the fastest way to ruin the intense feel that's supposed to come from an intense scene.

    Second question:

    Sometimes, it's just a matter of sitting down and forcing yourself to do it. Set a minimum word limit that is used for ONLY new content and strive to hit that limit every day. 2,000 words a day is a good goal.

    If I'm not feeling in the mood to write, I read. For me, reading helps my writing just as much as practicing writing does. It's absolutely essential, I think, to read other books while you write. Not only does reading another author's story help distract you, your brain can pick up on the sentence structure and style they use. (Just don't read books like Twilight and you'll be fine)


    I've always wished I had someone who would just sit down and tell me some of the key points on good writing. The things that make books so easy to read. In my first novel, it's very obvious that I didn't know how to develop characters, how to use an active voice, among other things.

    By now, I've grown a lot, I think. I know how to spin a good character, for example.


    Doubt it. Instead, I write differently when I act differently. If I've just watched a really sappy movie, I couldn't write a happy scene to save my life. But a breakup scene would probably turn out crushing.


    a) Where am I?

    b) No words. Just unsheathing the swords.

    c) I don't care

    d) Why always me?

    e) Just like before.

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  • 9 years ago

    -Use proper grammar. By this I mean watch your commas, appositives, and other teeny tiny errors. This is what I see the most when I critique other people, and it's the reason my posts end up being a super long. Then again, I'm a grammar stickler.

    -Plan your characters before writing. Think of names, personality quirks, etc. It really helps while writing the story because you won't have to spend twenty minutes thinking about whether that action will or won't fit your character. It'll also help you to make less Mary Sue-ish characters.

    -If you get bored or draw a blank, save your work and abandon it for some time. Then go back to it in a week or so.

    That's all my advice that I can think of! :)

    BQ1: My characters are more flawed and have more depth, my names are prettier (I find that funny :D), my grammar/sentence variation is much, much, much better, and my sentences flow more easily. My stories are usually fantasy, so the realistic thing doesn't really apply here. But I have been able to make it seem like it's taking place right below our nose, and we haven't noticed anything. If you know what I mean.

    BQ2: I've never heard this before, but I think that I agree. I tend to be super absorbed in my writing, and I get very irritable when people decide to interrupt me.

    BQ3: Hmm..I'll go with Forrest.

    a) Anxious and manipulated.

    b) Take the flowers.

    c) End the call.

    d) Pretend it's okay.

    e) Give cold shoulder.

  • Joss
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    I just finished one short story and am on my way to finishing my second short story after writing two novels and they are different. There are some people who think you should get novel-writing experience by writing short stories. Don't do that. If you want to write a novel, write a novel. If you want to write short stories, write short stories. They're completely different. Short stories don't have the involved plots that novels do. Novels have subplots and the characters have to have more depth. Also, just the length of time, obviously, since novels take longer to write and you can finish a short story in a week's time.

    My advice is dont' expect perfection on your first few tries. It's normal to write crap right off the bat. That's how you learn and get better. Realize that the first few novels you write are practice novels and nothing more. Over time, you'll find that your writing ability gets better. I also suggest you pick up some books on fiction writing and editing. There are also forums you can join, writing magazines you can buy, and writing websites, all of which offer great advice. Also, follow some literary agents and publishing editors on Twitter and blogs because they offer great advice for novice writers and great insights into publishing.


  • RBT618
    Lv 4
    9 years ago

    I would avoid Repetition and cliche

    If your suffering from Depression, then you are probably suffering also from Manic episodes. This is what the world calls Bipolar - you need to be on medication in order to havestability in your life. To concentrate on what needs to be in order to write a novel takes more than allowing your manic Brainstorming to find its way onto the pages of the novel.

    You as a writer must know where the line is drawn to eliminate certain things.

    You can write this brainstorming in a journal - for ideas later on. But the drafts of the novel have to be related to the novel alone - and that has to get cleaned up later on until eventually, you'll reach the final draft.

    In this small forum you were not able to stay the course to the question at hand and went off into the land of Fruits and Nuts. You have to get treated to get these thoughts under controll so you can work on writing productively.

    You should get to a healty lifestyle too - that will help so much with your focus.. I use my mornings at the gym the time to think my thoughts and sort out what needs sorting. Then that afternoon i relax so i can spend my nights and late nights writing without being disturbed. This is my schedule - find what works for you but get healthy back and take controll of your life along with your mind.....

  • Debra
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    omg u guys are killing me XD EVERY point made by previous posters x 1000 also would like to add (and this applies to chick flicks as well): * heroine has a REALLY unrealistic job: astrophysicist, molecular biologist, NY Met curator, astronaut, w/e (she's successful AND beautiful, dammit!) * her one "flaw" is: being clutzy, shops too much, doesn't like fashion, has 3 closets of shoes, she's "plain" (cries) "It's so horrible being a size 2! I'm so fat and plain!!", w/e * he's broody but doesn't have a sense of humor or anything to offset his only flaw. And actually, he's kind of a d&#k, but she forgives him everything cus he's hot and has 6 pack abs But yeah, all the other posters pretty much nailed it. For the most part, the romance genre (both adult and YA) are pretty much Barbie stories. (Barbie does this, and Ken is a WEREWOLF!! grrr!!, and Oh noes!!!! Ken's evil twin wants to date Barbie!!) I would like to see: * REALISTIC heroines that are actually average, and may actually be dorky/geeky * Also, heroines that might be a size 6-14, plus sizes as well why not, but actually average heroines that are not a size 0-2 * Realistic heros who actually have personalities and quirks that make them lovable * Romance that actually takes time to bloom, and they first develop a deep friendship first * Heroines that have the brains God gave them, and don't degenerate into whiny, handwringing ninnies because they misunderstood something EDIT: @el: haha I know! It's like that "Idiot Nerd Girl" meme. I *hate* people like that! xD

  • 9 years ago

    1. Too many characters. When more than just a few characters are introduced in the first few pages of a book, it’s difficult to keep their names and roles straight.

    2. Can’t get into the writing. If your prose doesn’t appeal to your target audience, you might lose your readers. For example, those looking for fun and feisty chick-lit might be turned off by a heavy literary style. Write for your intended audience instead of trying to please everyone.

    3. Sterile characters. If your characters are flat, if there’s nothing to set them and their struggles apart, we won’t want to cheer for them, and might not care enough to keep reading.

    4. Unrealistic dialogue. Overuse of speech tags like “she hissed,” “he snapped,” “she stammered,” get irritating fast. Likewise, reading a character’s name too often in dialogue can be a turn off. Avoid more than the occasional “um” or “well,” or “er,” and keep dialogue realistic, but more coherent.

    5. Inconsistency. Your writing style, tone, character motivations, or even plot might begin one way and, unintentionally, change at some point in the book. Be especially aware of small details like names, occupations, physical descriptions of people or places, which can all fall prey to inconsistencies over the course of 300+ pages.

    6. Experimental style. When a writer experiments with style or structure, the result can be refreshing or irritating. Your ability to pull off something out-of-the-ordinary depends on your skill as a writer, and your ability to connect with readers despite your unusual style.

    7. Unclear character motivations. Have you ever read a book where a character does something, and you say, “Why on earth did she do that?? She would never do that!” Ensure your characters’ actions are in line with their motivations, and if they don’t appear to be on the surface, your reader must understand why not.

    8. Poor character description. Try to let the reader to imagine characters for themselves with a few minimal, relevant details. If you have an exact image in your head, space it out throughout the novel, don’t throw it all in one go. Sometimes this works though, so be careful here.

    9. Info-dumping. Heaping a lot of back-story on your reader all at once stops the flow of your story. Instead, try to subtly weave in necessary details throughout the book.

    10. Deus ex machina. Deus ex machina is a plot device which introduces a new character or thing out of nowhere, to solve an otherwise unsolvable problem. Your reader will know immediately if something doesn’t ring true.

    11. Offensiveness. Any sort of gratuitous foul language, violence, or sex is going to alienate a portion of your readers right off the bat.

    12. Hackneyed plot. If your novel features an often-used storyline, be sure you present it in a fresh way. Readers are used to seeing similar plots, but unless there is something that makes yours stand out, they may not bother to continue reading.

    13. Unnecessarily long. If your story is well over generally accepted word counts for your genre, think very carefully about whether you’re adding too many unnecessary scenes or details. Use fewer words; choose better ones.

    14. Ineffective structure. If all the good stuff happens at the beginning, or if nothing exciting happens until the end, your reader will be frustrated with the rest of the book.

    BQ: I was five when i began writing. I am now ten years older than that. My writing, grammar, vocabulary, context, plot. . . everything is a lot more sophiticated and generally better.

    BQ2: Yes. My plots are a lot more sensitive and my vocabulary impoves ten-fold. It's not that i don't know the words, i just don't use them in my day to day life. I am very secretive naturally and i think this is put into my writing, but i am very loud and random and crazy in person and this aspect isn't placed into my writing.

    BQ3: I'll go with Evra. She's enjoyed shining more than Rune (the major MC), and isn't going to give it up yet

    a) Yell out to the sea. Then find food. Then try to escape. . . build a boat maybe. Evra doesn't waste time

    b) Slam the door in his face

    c) "HA. You think i believe that. Come near me and I'll kill you with the power you gave me." Slams down phone

    d) Pet? Evra has no pet

    e) Go grab Darien by the neck and yell at him. Kick him where it hurts. In Rune's case, she'd just glare.

  • 9 years ago

    • Don't spend time rereading what you've written. Just push ahead, and keep writing. It's tempting to want to reread, but it's time wasted that could be spent writing :D

    • Don't try to get it perfect (like you said). There will be revisions. The only editing you should be doing is the decision making of "does this decision make sense?" "is this true to the character?" "is this the way I want my story to go?" "should this character be in this scene?" Do NOT edit your sentence, trying to find the right words, or trying to make them flow perfectly. It's a waste of time, for the first draft, focusing on flow and precise word usage. First drafts are for telling the story; Second drafts are for telling the story well.

    • Write often. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires a lot of pushing through. Some days writing is amazing, but most days it's just plopping your @ss down and doing it, without feeling very magical.

    • Focus on small goals. Don't see your work as a whole book. Take it chapter by chapter, scene by scene. It's like a road trip... enjoy the journey, and focus on the obstacles in road you can see ahead of you, not the miles and miles of road and potential obstacles that you can't see.

    • Write even if you don't feel like it. Your mood has nothing to do with your ability to write well. Feeling "inspired" simply means it's easier that day, not that you're producing anything more or less brilliant than you normally would on any other day.



    Look back at your very first stories, and now return to your newest ones.What has changed through all these years concerning your writing abilities ? Are your plots and characters more interesting, realistic and developed ? If not, what will you do to change this fact ?

    I have a lot of Mary Sues. I also have a lot of unnecessary description and melodramatic moments. My plots have always been fun and unique, but my ability to create characters and descriptions has developed a lot.


    Do you act differently when you write ? Like, for example, you become more sensitive, preoccupied, conscious ? Do you think that writers' personality is split in half ? "The real me" and "the other me" ...?

    Nope. Writers are pretty normal, I think, even though some may think we are crazy for spending so much time passionately doing what we love. I think sometimes writers like to fake being strange or odd or quirky because it makes them FEEL more like a writer, but it really doesn't do anything.


    Pick one of your Main Characters and describe in three words what would they do/feel or how would they react if :

    a) They awoke in the middle of a deserted, unknown island somewhere on Pacific Ocean ?

    He would think "I guess I woke up with teleportation powers today!"

    b) A stranger (male) would knock on their door after midnight, with a smile on his face and red roses on his hands?

    He would call for his mom or stepdad, probably. He's sort of a fraidy cat.

    c) The villain would call them on the phone, apologizing for everything he/she had ever done to them, and then asking for a place to go with them ?

    He would say no. He's only 10 years old and knows better than to go meet up with the villain, even if he's professed that he's changed.

    d) Their favorite/most lovable pet would pass away in front of their eyes ?

    :( He would be in anguish. It would be something that affected him for a long time, that's for sure!

    e) They had their birthday but no one remembered ?

    Oh he'd be pissed. He already feels like the left-out one in the family, and people forgetting his birthday would be the last straw. He might even run away to his friend's house for a couple of days.

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