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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Your Book

Karen Osman

Writing a book is a huge investment of time and if you have a day job, family, and other responsibilities as well, you might find yourself in the position of sacrificing something in order to finish your manuscript. With this in mind, here are five mistakes to avoid to help you write more effectively.

1. Not knowing your main character or plot well enough

Before putting pen to paper, spend time developing your main character and understanding your plot. You can do this by developing a character profile sheet which outlines the physical, emotional, and psychological traits of your main character. What is character’s motivation? What drives them to do what they do? How do they react to certain situations? The same goes for plot – there is nothing worse for a writer than writing 40,000 words only to realise the story doesn’t make sense, so make sure you understand your plot first.

2. Editing as you go along

Think about writing and editing as two separate processes and you will write your first draft much quicker than if you tried to write and edit at the same time. That’s because each requires a different area of your brain and it’s more taxing to be continually switching. As Terry Pratchett said, the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. Once you’ve written the first draft, you can then focus on editing. If it makes you feel anxious to write an entire manuscript first, then try writing the first ten chapters and then edit and continue with the next ten chapters until you reach the end of the book. Hopefully, this should give you peace of mind but also allow you to get into the flow without the risk of using editing to procrastinate.

3. Writing Without An Outline

I know this is controversial, but I truly believe that writers’ block only exists when there is no plan. Of course, it’s impossible to know everything that will happen in your book, but I do recommend at least knowing the beginning, the middle, and the end. Not only will this take away the overwhelm of writing 80,000 words but it will also give you some much-needed direction to work towards. Oh yes, and you won’t sit at your desk wondering what the heck you should write about each day.

4. Using cliches

Probably an obvious one but we all have those days where we simply don’t have the brain power to think of how to say something in an original way. While it’s easy to rely on cliches, it will reduce the impact of your work enormously. Agents and publishers can work on plot issues but there’s no room in the industry for lazy writing. Ignore this advice at your peril.

5. Not Trusting Your Gut

I remember writing a chapter in my second book, The Home, where I introduced a new character. I must have been several chapters in when I realised that something about this new character wasn’t working. I ignored it and went on to finish writing the novel but instead of feeling relieved, I had a nagging sensation. I wasn’t surprised when my editor came back and told me that this character didn’t fit the story. If you haven’t worked it out already, the lesson here is to trust your gut instinct – if you think something isn’t working, get a second opinion early on rather than continuing.


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I'm Karen, a best-selling novelist who left her corporate life to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Since then, I've written everything from travel articles to web copy before winning a novel writing competition which led to a 3-book deal. 


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