Writing Craft Writing Tips WYBB

3 Ways to Improve Your Novel Writing Starting Now!

Untitled design (3)

I review writing samples from new and struggling authors almost every day. Whether I’m doing a free sample edit for a potential editing client or trying to decide if an author is a good fit for my coaching program, I’ve begun to notice certain pesky habits repeating themselves.

Untitled design (4)

Frankly, I remember making these same mishaps early in my writing career, too. 

They are, in my experience, some of the most common early writing mistakes we make until we learn that there’s a better way.

But that makes them no less deadly…

So, I thought a blog post outlining the most common writing craft mistakes I see and providing simple techniques for fixing them in your future writing might not be a bad idea.

See if you recognize any of these “issues” in your writing. As we go, I’ll provide my professional insight on each. I’ll also share actionable tips for correcting and avoiding these mistakes in your own work. 

Pro Tip:

Bookmark this post by clicking the little star to the right of your Chrome search bar, so you can easily find this blog and reference it any time! 

Pesky Writing Mistake #1 -
Incoherent Sentences

Unique physical traits Distinctive personality traits Compelling backstory Fitting emotional wound Appropriate motivation Achievable goal (4)

One way to improve your novel writing is to avoid incoherent sentences. I’m referring to sentences that cause the reader to “stumble,” re-read, or possibly get so confused, they eventually get frustrated and give up.

And we don’t want that, do we?

If readers can’t easily read and comprehend the prose you’ve put before them, it won’t be long before their frustration turns to a big, fat DNF (“Did Not Finish!”), and that’s the nightmare of every author who ever picked up a pen.

Here’s a real-life example of an incoherent sentence:

Bobby was my closest friend. He was assigned to be my personal butler since I was a child growing into the father figure I never had. The Father abandoned his 16 years daughter. The Father who didn’t give a shit about blood only money.

 

Unique physical traits Distinctive personality traits Compelling backstory Fitting emotional wound Appropriate motivation Achievable goal (2)

Uncertain exactly what the author meant to say, I took a guess, struck it entirely, and suggested a rewrite similar to the following:

Bobby wasn’t just my bodyguard. He was a close confidant and even a friend to me as I grew into a man, and he was the father figure I needed since the real one had completely abandoned me, choosing wealth and material things over me…his only child.

Now, I’m not claiming my fixer sentence is the best possible solution, but unfortunately, not being able to clearly discern the authors intent made it hard to make a suggestion! 

I think we can agree, however, that the second sentence is easier to comprehend and has a much smoother flow than the original.

Improve Your Writing Now
By Fixing This Mistake

Obviously, taking the time to master the English language is paramount for any budding author.

Working with an experienced writing coach, (like me, for example – CLICK HERE to reach out!) can fast track your career and help you improve your novel writing faster than by going it alone.

Pro Tip:

Highlight a paragraph you’re unsure of, turn on “Read Aloud” in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and let the AI read your sentences back to you!

I guarantee, that by implementing this simple tip, you’ll be much more likely to detecy any clunky, awkward or nonsensical sentence structures – giving you the opportunity to improve your novel writing.

 

Remember, you want readers’ eyes to float across the words seamlessly and effortlessly. 

Otherwise, you risk them stumbling over each line to the point that they throw your book across the room and march straight to their computer to leave a Nasty Nancy book review!

 

Let’s avoid that…shall we?

Pesky Writing Mistake # 2 - Vagueness/Cliches

Unique physical traits Distinctive personality traits Compelling backstory Fitting emotional wound Appropriate motivation Achievable goal (3)

When I talk about “vagueness” and “cliches,” I’m referring to words and phrases that typically come from writers overthinking and trying too hard to write the way they think their book should sound (cliché).

Example:

He arrived on the scene just in the nick of time.

Okay. Cool. But what scene? What’s happening? Why is it “in the nick of time?”

Oh, so cliché!

Here, the author thinks they’re using a clever turn of phrase. Unfortunately if  this overused verbiage tells the reader absolutely nothing pertinent to the plot, it’s cliché.

Fix it sentence:

As Officer Harry pulled his cruiser to an abrupt halt, the victim lay writhing on the pavement, blood oozing from an apparent gunshot wound to his chest. Harry prayed he’d arrived just in time to save the clerk’s life.

Yes. It’s a bit longer, but the wording is still concise and clear. 

And, without any context clues, I now know way more than I did in the problem sentence.

Are we having fun yet, or what?!

Unique physical traits Distinctive personality traits Compelling backstory Fitting emotional wound Appropriate motivation Achievable goal (6)

Aside from cliché language, some authors also use words and phrases so generic, the reader learns nothing, and the story hasn’t actually made even a tiny step forward (vague).

Example:

It’s the holidays, the birthdays, the other special occasions that remind me of the day my life turned upside down.

Okay. Not a bad sentence, per se. But without any context clues or further description, as a reader, I’m left feeling like I missed something.

 

Fix it sentence:

Every holiday, birthday, and special occasion served as a brutal reminder that Bree was never coming home. Because of one careless mistake, my daughter would never celebrate anything ever again.

See? I still haven’t divulged everything. But it’s no longer vague! I clearly hint that the protagonist’s daughter must have died in her backstory. Now, rather than losing your interest, it should pique your curiosity so that you keep reading!

So, in the future, improve your novel writing by dropping little hints and clues to “sprinkle” the backstory throughout the opening scenes. Avoid divulging too much in one big info dump and/or being too vague so as to confuse the reader. 

Pesky Writing Mistake #3 -
Lack of Character “Personality”

Boring your readers will casue them to give up on your work.

By this, I mean, when I read a certain sample of writing, I cannot distinguish one character’s narrative or even dialogue from the next. 

While this is a common mistake, it can be hugely detrimental.

Why? Because that’s a sure-fire way bore your readers. And, when they get bored, they will set your book down. Odds are, that if that happens more than once, your reader will slap you with a big, fat DNF!

 

I can’t give examples for this one because it’s something that reveals itself over the course of several pages/scenes.

 

Just keep in mind that, each character, especially your narrator/protagonist, should have their own clear, discernable, and unique voice. This voice should be present in both their dialogue and their narrative (if they get a narrative POV).

To Fix this Mistake...

I cannot emphasize this enough…you MUST spend time preparing your story, planning your plot, developing your characters, and building your world BEFORE you begin writing scene one!

When you are developing your characters, make three different documents: one for your primary characters, one for your secondary characters, and one for tertiary or “window dressing” (non-crucial) characters.

For example, when working on your primary characters (your lead, love interest, villain, protagonist), make sure to think beyond hair color, eye color, and basic personality traits. Fully developed, mutifaceted characters are an amazing way to up your game and improve your novel writing.

In my best-selling resource, available in my Etsy Shop — The Character Builder Workbook — (CLICK HERE to buy for under $5!!) I teach you everything you need to know about creating and developing 3-D characters who are relatable, loveable (or hate-able), and will stick with your readers forever, including… 

6 pillars of well developed characters

If you focus on making sure each key character (and some secondary characters) are fully developed using these pillars, you’re halfway there. 

 

But the other half of the equation is thinking of how they would speak, both verbally and with body language.

Make sure each character acts and reacts appropriately for the story you’ve developed for them.

Example

If the protagonist’s mentor, Dr. Winston Bellamy, is a professor at Harvard, you must make sure that, when describing him in any scene, his clothing, his mannerisms, his emotional reactions, etc., are all appropriate for someone of that station in life.

And when Dr. Bellamy speaks, he would likely not use contractions, use bigger words than you’d use for other characters and your narrative, and speak more formally in general…maybe with an air of snootiness (if that’s how you imagine him).

Unique physical traits Distinctive personality traits Compelling backstory Fitting emotional wound Appropriate motivation Achievable goal (7)

Do this with each character you introduce into your story, especially when they speak, or we hear their narrative voice, then…

rinse, lather, and repeat!

Hopefully, this information will help you when you go to revise and/or write your next book so you can avoid the most common (and often deadly) mistakes that can thwart your efforts at writing a book that will propel your writing career into legacy status!

And don’t forget…

I add new writing resources, such as templates, tutorials, workbooks, and even courses, to my Etsy shop each week. So be sure to check it out and peek back in often! 

You can access my shop by clicking the button below. And, if you use the code BOOKBOSS15, I’ll take 15% off your entire order!

And…you’re welcome.

popular book genre, top 5 book genres, choose your book genre, writing book genres, most popular book genres
Love it? Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More Posts Like This...