5 Common Mistakes First-Time Authors Make

Author Anthony Avina here. How is everyone today? I’m here to introduce this amazing guest blog post from writer Emmanuel Nataf on the five mistakes authors make on their first time writing books. I hope you guys will enjoy this amazing article and be sure to follow Emmanuel on all of his writing adventures!


Aristotle wrote, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” In other words, there’s literally no way to learn certain things other than by actually doing them — and writing a book is one such thing.

That being said, aspiring authors can definitely prepare themselves for the process of writing a book by learning from others. With that in mind, here are five common mistakes first-time authors make — and how to avoid them!

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1. Not creating an outline

If your preferred method of writing is to let your pen lead the way, then you’re probably a big fan of freewriting — which is a great exercise! But, in general, setting out to write a book without creating at least a loose outline tends to result in an ever-growing pile of unfinished manuscripts.

Just like you would consult a map to help you drive from Point A to Point B in unfamiliar territory, creating an outline before you start writing a book can help you get from “Once upon a time” to “Happily ever after.” Simply check your outline any time you feel you’re starting to lose the plot.

Here are three popular outline methods you can try out:

  • The Beat Sheet — makes note of just the book’s significant beats (important incidents in the story). Check out an example of Toy Story 3 mapped out by just it’s beats here.
  • The Character Driven Outline — maps out a story through character development.
  • The Synopsis — a detailed and holistic story outline that touches on all important story aspects: characters, conflicts, themes, etc.

2. Not getting to know their characters well enough

If you were to go on an extended trip with someone you barely know, chances are that conflicts of personality or unexpected challenges would come up. However, if you were to travel at length with someone you know well, you would already have an idea of how to navigate any potential conflicts, and would likely find your journey a bit smoother.

Writing a novel is like going on a trip with your main character(s). You’re going to be spending long hours with this character, exploring unfamiliar territory together, and basically relying on one another for a meaningful outcome. So before you set out on the journey of writing a book, get to know your protagonists as much as possible.

In-depth character development involves more than simply coming up with a memorable character name. A great way to get to know your protagonist a little better is by simply asking “them” questions. I know that might sound silly, but the more you ask, the more you’ll answer! To get started, check out Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions That Lead to Love or The Proust Questionnaire.

3. Not reading at length in their genre

If you’re writing a science fiction novel, chances are you’ve probably read Frankenstein, The Time Machine, and other sci-fi classics. It’s unlikely that someone who’s never read a single fantasy novel will suddenly decide to write a book involving an intricate magical system.

That being said, there’s a difference between reading for pleasure vs. to understand a genre.

If you’re planning to write genre fiction, pick up some classics as well as some newer publications before you begin. Read them with a discerning eye, looking for tropes that pop up again and again, new elements that the books bring to the table, and trends that have come and gone within the genre. This will help you get a sense of readers’ expectations, how to ensure your book stands out, and whether your story feels timely.

4. Not devoting enough time to developmental editing

While every writer knows the importance of meticulous proofreading, it can be tempting to rush the stage that comes before a proofread: developmental editing, which involves fine-tuning the story. It can be difficult for authors to do this themselves, as they’re often too close to the story and might not recognize things like plot holes or unclear worldbuilding. So it’s a good idea to consider working with a professional editor or beta readers.

If you do decide to do your own developmental editing, here are a few questions to keep in mind as you edit:

  • Language: Are there any words frequently repeated throughout the manuscript? Are there too many instances of passive voice? Are there filler words that can be removed?
  • Characters: Does the development of the character match the development of the narrative? Are there any instances where a character acts inconsistently?
  • Structure: Does the sequence of the scenes feel logical? Is the structure easy for readers to follow? Does the structure of the scenes allow the story to develop in the best way? Are there any scenes that aren’t completely necessary to the story?
  • Plot: Are there any plot holes? Are there any plotlines that are unresolved?

5. Not following the golden rule: show, don’t tell

This is one of those “rules of storytelling” you hear so often, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when it comes up. And while there’s nothing that encourages you to break the rules quite like art, there are certain tricks of the trade that are long-standing for a reason. “Show, don’t tell” is one of them.

But what does it actually mean?  Well, showing instead of telling aims to immerse readers in a story by putting us in the character’s shoes. Instead of saying “Joe was shy,” we see Joe off to the side at a group event, nervously playing with his cufflinks, avoiding smalltalk by texting on his phone. As Anton Chekhov put it: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

While the best way to learn anything is by making mistakes — and then learning how to fix them — I hope this post will help you sidestep some of the more common ones so that you can focus on simply telling a great story.

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Emmanuel Nataf is a founder at Reedsy, a marketplace and set of tools that allows authors and publishers to find top editorial, design and marketing talent. Over 4,000 books have been published using Reedsy’s services.

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My 2018 Goals

It’s a new year. 2018. The time to make changes, set goals and decide what you want your life to be. While some things are out of our control, there are so many things we as people are capable of doing to make positive changes in our lives. As an author, a blogger, a writer and a YouTuber, I have made a decision to make 2018 the year of Anthony Avina. In other words, I plan to better myself in all aspects of my career, and make this the year my goals become somewhat of a reality. I also want to improve my own personal life, including being more open about the life I’m leading with you guys, the readers. With that in mind, I thought it was time to write about my 2018 goals.

No, this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution kind of thing. Instead, I’m going to be focusing on setting goals for myself to work towards with no commitment that they will definitely happen, but with the hope that maybe, just maybe, I can accomplish these goals. So here are my 2018 goals!

Personal:

I plan to get healthier. Those of you who don’t know need to know that I am never going to be 100% healthy. I have several disabilities that hinder me and my daily life, including Dercum’s Disease (look it up), Fibermyalgia, Hashimodo’s Disease and probable Rheumatoid Arthritis (test pending). These diseases have no cure and have made it impossible to get a 9-5 standing job, to be able to run, hike, or work out normally. It’s also lead to weight gain. If I’m being honest with myself, part of it is due to depression and eating food I shouldn’t. However a lot of it is due to the diseases themselves, which some lead to weight gain you can’t control. Before all of these illnesses, I was working out. I was loosing weight and getting fit. That life of a skinny or athletic person is never going to happen for me, but I’m OK with it. I have accepted this is my life and I am striving to make 2018 the year that I at least improve my health. Already I have been doing well on a new diet, cutting out most of the carbs I used to eat in my life. I am also starting to walk with my little dog Sammy and will be working to improve the amount of walking I can do. No matter my size, I’m determined to be happy in my body and still get healthier.

I also plan to push myself to get out more. As I mentioned with the disabilities I also have depression, anxiety and social anxiety. I have a hard time conceiving a situation in which I could approach someone and strike up a conversation without any lead up. Talking with people in real life is a lot more difficult than emailing them or live chatting them. When I got sick, I had a lot of friends that suddenly stopped talking to me. It was high school, so I tell myself that they were kids who had their own lives and moved on like any other teenager and young adult would have. However it was difficult to make friends after that. This year I plan to change that. I want to converse more and talk with the online friends I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in the last couple years. I also want to travel more and meet new people, befriending them or possibly starting a relationship with a woman I meet in the world. Overall I want to push myself to be a more social person.

Professionally:

2018 is going to be the year I move forward with my career. This year, I plan to make my blog here and my YouTube channel prosper. I am dedicating myself to writing more on this blog and growing both my subscriber base and newsletter following. I want to entertain, educate and start a conversation in multiple areas on both my blog and channel. I am going to be doing way more book related posts and videos. I have gotten over 150 book review requests and that number continues to grow. I am hopeful I can build both my blog and channel into a thriving community where we can discuss books, pop culture and the world at large in a positive and happy arena.

Finally, this is the year my writing takes center stage. Towards the end of last year I was fortunate enough to get a new job working for the online publication TheGamer, a popular entertainment magazine where my articles have garnered over seven million views thus far. I want to grow my presence on the website and make that a big priority for my work, bringing the most entertaining articles possible. I have some exciting Nintendo related articles coming to the site soon. I also plan to self-publish and traditionally publish books. I have several self-published books in the works right now, and will be working to write and edit/publish more this year. Most exciting of all, I have a publisher I’m working with on my first publishing deal right now. I can’t reveal the book or the publisher yet, but I just finished the editing phase of the process and my book is now in the hands of a proofreader, so needless to say I am so thrilled that my writing career seems to be hitting an all-time high and I feel this is the start of a wonderful new phase of my life. This is where my dreams of becoming a writer begin to take shape, and I will work to make that a reality in the months to come.

Those are my main goals of 2018 guys. I hope you’ll follow along as I go on this journey to make myself and my career shine in 2018. If you guys want to watch my latest YouTube video where I talk about these goals, be sure to check out the link here! What are some of your goals of 2018? Leave them in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to my blog and sign up for my free newsletter! You get a free short story when you do and it’s free to sign up. Thanks for listening guys and I look forward to hearing from you guys!

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